Tuesday, August 30, 2011

August 30, 2011

Stopped counting when the apologies for missing Vance among my colleagues reached fourteen. The flat fact is that the only reason why anybody doesn’t go anywhere is, finally, because they don’t want to. The whole matter is probably best left unmentioned. The group I’d hurried out to meet on Saturday night didn’t make it, except for L and K. I knew this at the time. What I didn’t know is that they had gathered at the bar in Weaverville as planned, but had gotten so drunk that none could finish the journey to Mars Hill. When this was told to me it was clear I was meant to find it amusing and endearingly human. I found it, actually, so clear a gesture of contempt that I could hardly continue the day among them. I stand outside the magic circle of people my colleagues care about. I must have wanted it that way at one time, someone is bound to say. What most astonishes is that we are so incurious about the present, living aspect of what we present in our classrooms. Had there been a playwright on our faculty at Hiram, we would have walked to Cleveland at midnight to see his work.

Yesterday a bad one all in all. The cascade of false remorse broke my stride and I never got it back. Did enjoy conferences with my creative writers, each of whom is charmingly unique, some so frightened, some so confident. No idea from those few moments who can write and who cannot. Had a meeting with the first student (not in my class, nor ever to be) who, I knew from the first moment, was not sane. I often don’t pick up on that. Did this time. Watched her carefully to see how much of it was an act. A presentation. Couldn’t, finally, tell. Maybe if you’re really wacko, none of it is an act.

Carolyn returns to a great sounding of car alarms.

Auditioned for the university theater for the first time in 20 years. Testing the waters. In the display cabinet were posters from Much Ado, Tartuffe, The Canterbury Tales. I told the kids auditioning with me that I had starred in them all, which is quite true, though whether they believed me or not was hard to tell. Theater games before the audition. I normally think I hate theater games, but in the middle of it I was wondering why. They were fun, and I felt limbered up afterwards.

DVD of an amazing British series about the founding of the Bow Street Runners by none other than Henry Fielding and his brother John. Like CSI in 1750.

August 28, 2011

Dull yellowish morning, flat in comparison to the tempestuous morning which greets the hurricane-ravaged east coast.

Vance dispiriting last night. I don’t know why. Kitty and Lorena attended from the department. I thought there was supposed to be a whole company who drank at a pub and then came to the play as an evening outing, but that did not materialize. Maybe they decided to stay at the pub.

Dull morning became the most radiant and stainless day. Worked in the garden, warring on the vines and their tremendous roots, levering stones out of the dirt where they have lain buried since I don’t know when. Shoulder aching now, and a shirt so dirty it needs to be matted and framed as proof of my labors for a later time

Couldn’t face either church or the last matinee of Vance today. Instead, wrote and gardened. And napped. Have been sleeping excessively not because I have been tired but because I needed to escape consciousness, or so I think.

John Crutchfield will be directing The Future of the Theater

Sunday, August 28, 2011

August 27, 2011

The news reports a navy Seal named Tumlison was killed in a helicopter crash, and at his funeral in Iowa, his dog lay beside the casket, shameless in his devastation, annihilated, the one soul in the room willing to admit himself utterly undone. You think that the grief of humans is deeper because it includes understanding, but maybe the opposite is true. The dog, Hawkeye, had no rationalizations to offer himself, no consoling faith, no rhetoric of courage, merely loss unfathomable, loss the end of which cannot be seen. I am undone by this image. When I close my eyes I see the dog lying on the wooden floor beside the casket. I would take wing and be some kind of angel to console this, to comfort this, to end this, but, of course, I have no idea how.

Borrowed DJ’s Star Wars DVDs, beginning my journey with the commentaries and documentaries and extra materials. On every relevant occasion, George Lucas confesses that having his own way, not being under anybody’s control, was the important thing to him, and though there is romance in that, and though one agrees that if he is referencing the cowardice and stupidity of the studios he is probably right, the fact is that the series may have been better if he had yielded his own way from time to time to someone with deeper understanding. The series is not good, all in all. Some of it is quite bad. The first script is terrible and the scripts do not improve with time. Some are better than others, but the improvement doesn’t seem to be intentional. Carrie Fisher remembers joking about the badness of the script, saying, “You can type that, but you can’t say it.” Almost as often as Lucas declares his desire for autonomy, someone credits him with revolutionizing the movie industry. In terms of technical advances, this cannot be denied, yet one suspects that these advances–when Lucas was tearing them out of the void–were to insure that one could get one’s own way without being very good. You convince other people you have a vision, and then they do the work for you. The series is not good, but it is spectacular. What Lucas achieved–and this in itself is an act of genius–is changing the process of movie making so that a half-baked idea or shallow dialogue can be smothered under layers of special effects. He created a state in which one’s own inadequacies can be redeemed by the expertise of others. No matter how flimsy a world is in conception, model makers and composers and costumers can make it spectacular. Spectacle can indeed make you forget for a while the absence of nourishment. Since Star Wars there has been a flood of movies whose basic narrative qualities have been neglected because the movie maker knew that special effects could make an audience pass over shoddiness or implausibility or triviality. It is the cynical, final admission that film is not an art, not even purely a commodity, but a kind of manipulation. You know this movie will be bad, but you will go to it because it has space ships and gigantic explosions and robots run amuck. This process doesn’t work so well as they hoped, maybe (people not being quite so stupid as they had hoped), but well enough to make all the wrong people rich. I don’t blame Lucas. He was a resentful boy who wanted his own way whether he deserved it or not. I understand that. The abuse came after.

August 26, 2011

Hot and dry return. Irene throws threatening clouds over our heads, but no precipitation.

The Citizen-Times review of Vance is highly favorable. I thought I would have been the only person to have read it, and so brought copies to the performance, but everyone had seen it already. I do live in my own little world.

I went to tonight’s performance only to meet Richmond, who said he was going. Richmond did not arrive.

Spent an hour at the café because T said he wanted to talk to me about his script. T did not arrive.

Crawled under the desk for some reason, discovering plateaus of elderly cat vomit which had to be scraped away with knives and solvent.

The school week was paralyzing. Must consider why in order to know how to face the rest of the semester, the rest of the year. I suspect all the reasons are extra-curricular.

Notable bobbles in the performance tonight. Most of the things which bother me could have been fixed with a word. Some could not. Perhaps there was enough time just to get it to the point where it is. The things which delighted me in the first performance delight me still.

How much praise would be enough praise? What would someone say that might really content me, and leave me unable to detect a negative or ironic reading?

Entered a search for “worthless crap” on Ebay. Oddly, came up with nothing.

August 24, 2011

I put Ste’s photo up in my office at school. I suppose I do so to share him a little. He looks angular and intense, and a little frightening, the photo much more frightening than the person. I do not understand his emotions, and yet it is not for lack of candor on his part. He is quite clear and express. I am simply incapable of believing everything I hear. He looks sadder in the photo than I have any power to reach.

Everything I have before me in the next 24 hours is something I don’t want to do.

August 23, 2011

Poetry’s birthday.

The deep pink and the purple crape myrtles are blooming in my yard, golden tansy and one orange rose, and the browning-reddish-weed-looking thing I planted last year and forget the name of.

Rocky first day of class. I was unprepared, and my powers of improvisation were not at their height. A former student–looking indeed rough– haunted the halls, finally asking me for money, which I gave him. He has been unemployed since graduation, subsisting by applying for different graduate schools and, on the basis of his ability being admitted, and on the basis of his poverty given whopping assistance packages, which he used for subsistence. But now all of that is dried up, and he has no completed advanced degree and no means of support. He is also not quite sane, never was, which colors things a little, but not entirely. He claims even McDonald’s would not take him.

This was meant to be the summer of Lincoln in New York. Instead it is the summer of Zebulon Vance in Mars Hill. That is a perfection of irony. That about summarizes the whole thing, and I mean The Whole Thing.

Better second day of class. I was my old self. Early in the afternoon there was an earthquake. It was the strongest one I ever felt, and lasted long enough for me to wonder whether I should be crawling under a desk or something. Apparently it was a 5.9 centered somewhere in Virginia. Though it was not strong at all as those things go, the impression, while it was happening, was of irresistible power.

Ste sends a packet containing a pen, a sample of cologne, a photograph of himself, and a note. The note says, “I love you.” It’s something a boy would do, and its poignancy is greater for coming from a man.

August 21, 2011

Yesterday was a farce of unending, petty-- but cumulatively dispiriting-- mishaps generated by the Cosmos. I would accuse the Cosmos of gratuitous mischief– way past the point of being funny–if I knew how to get its ear. Evening culminated in another viewing of Vance, this time with Zach and Karen, excellent company and perceptive theater-goers. They came in at the end of an exacting day, so I pray they did not note the testiness which underlay every syllable I uttered. Their airy house on a hill in Weaverville is envy-inducing. Z has a peculiar physical affect. Sometimes he looks like a regular happy kid. Sometimes his dark, blue-eyed beauty is piercing, overwhelming.

I’ve seen the play as often as I need to for a while. What I noticed last night–what I indeed could not stop noticing– was how the actors, having memorized well, machinegun their lines without thinking about them. Whether an actor is alive in the moment is instantly evident, and they weren’t. They were reciting lines they had learned, with that enraging trick actors have of unintelligibly bunching together half the line so they can get to the part they have worked on. The first scene is jetted through as though they were about to run out of air. Quirks and bad readings and passages of ham that were disturbing the first night have become stakes upon which I burn in my darkened seat. MM is the exception. Ability is not the issue, but attentiveness, mindfulness. Yet, all is well. My guess is that nobody notices but me, and I might not had I quit after the first few nights. The crowds are huge (or at least space-filling) and so far as I can tell they go away pleased.

The most solid lesson of this experience: people do not go to plays because they’re good, but because they’re about something they’re interested in. Vance is not even in the good top 20 of my plays, but it has had whopping audiences, because people around here are interested in Zebulon Vance. The Beautiful Johanna is better by levels of magnitude, but by the time its plot is summarized to someone who has asked “What’s it about?” you know the battle is already lost. I have relied far too much on, overestimated grossly, an audience’s sense of adventure. This is not even a complaint. It is, now that I think of it, perfectly reasonable. My judgment is thrown off by my own odd nature. I love going to plays I know nothing about on topics that I don’t even inquire about beforehand. It was wrong to generalize this peculiar trait into a prospective audience.

Night. Forty minutes left of this day. I cannot say why, but all turned in the course of the day to a kind of unexpected joy. The annihilating, bottomless exhaustion I had been feeling left me. I did not have to lie down every hour. I wrote exuberantly, and had plans for more writing than I could get to. I met Justin in Mars Hill, and we attended the matinee of Vance, when a miraculous thing happened. The performance was wonderful. Almost perfect. I was moved twice in soul, once during Burgwyn’s scene and once during Hattie’s lamentation for her shawl, as though I had never seen the play before. Something in the performers was transfigured, and the performance I thought would be a weary duty for Justin’s sake became, for the first time, exactly what theater should be. Holy theater. Abundant and enriching and unexpected theater. Professor McKinney–my historical source-- was there, and we sat on stage before the audience and discussed history and the stage, and he seemed to like the play, as I feared he might not.

In the evening, then, at twilight, the most magical thing of all happened. The sky filled with purple martins, their twittering, swooping, veering shapes dark against the darkening sky. For whatever reason, the sight of them feeding above my garden was most inexplicably blessed. I watched them a long time, blessing them in my heart as they fluttered so close I could reach out and touch them. Evening must be my holy time, for the most holy moments I remember– the rising of the moon over an Irish road, the gathering of herons at sea’s edge, the thronging of martins in high summer, the deep peace of the shadowed mountains-- have been at evening, just before it edges over into night.

The rebels are in Tripoli. What I thought was a lost caus seems suddenly won. A blessed night, whatever comes at morning.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

August 20, 2011

Went to Vance last night with Chris Lambert, who turns out to be from the same part of the world as I. We kept naming common places with a tone of amazement. After stops at Case Western Reserve and Australia, he’s in Asheville to live the Starving Artist phase of his life, about which he is being mindful and deliberate, setting himself intricate exercises to improve his writing stamina. His mother teaches at Kent State, where she sings the same corporatization-of-the-academy dirge that I do. After all his citations of the European avant-garde, I was afraid he’d find the play over-folksy, but he claimed to like it fine. Drinks at Avenue M, where the crew of Vance materialized around us. C is so charming the waitress bought him a drink. Arrived home to discover I had betrayed John L and his guests by assuming it was tonight I was to meet them rather than last night. There has to be something creepy every time, I suppose, for the lords of the shadow to be satisfied. Theater all but sold out.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Opening Night

August 19, 2011

Dark and peaceful morning.

Finally got my Black Mountain proposal to Brian, calling it John & Merce & Melpomene.

Three big events in a day. The first was an opening faculty meeting which seems more surreal the more I think about it. It opened with summaries of NEA workshops over the summer, which seemed real and useful and academic to me. But it quickly descended into a series of committee reports which, however extended, contained no actual information. It was a faculty meeting written by Kafka, a whole lot of self-congratulation based on scheduling meetings the matter of which remained unrevealed–if indeed matter there was. Furthermore, it was possible for a visitor to sit in that room for an hour and not know we are an institution of education, that there were students involved, or that the professors had duties beyond adherence to the service of a series of blissfully vague quasi-corporate directives. Not one syllable about the delivery of curriculum. Not one syllable about the life of the mind, which is what–and none of those other things– we are meant to be about. Our big push seems to be a Quality Added program which is, considered for a moment, indistinguishable from plain old good teaching, but heavily disguised so that we may be tempted to think it is an innovation for which we have the administration to thank. The only changes are to make everything vaguer and worse. SACS, our rating organization, has found a way to perpetuate what was only a periodic interference with our work by declaring that assessment is a never-ending task, and that we shall think of ourselves as perpetually in pursuit of accreditation. How convenient, not only for them, but for persons in the superstructure who have no real work to do except to hound everyone about “assessment.” Sounds like Bush’s lip-smacking declaration of a perpetual state of war. The Provost spent minutes apologizing for our current poverty; then the rest of the meeting was suffocated in spun sugar manufactured, expensively, by people whose work–if this was an example of it– is as superfluous as tits on a boar hog. I know where to cut the budget and lose not a janitor, not a groundskeeper.

In the afternoon, Peg’s farewell party.

August 18, opening night of Vance, which I almost missed by falling asleep on the couch. I think it was a triumph. The people who offered comments offered praise, and the local critic seemed not only positive, but impressed. A critic’s approval is not the final goal, perhaps, but it makes the afternoon nap a hundred times easier. I’ll be vulturing the media for the next few days to see what people have to say. My crusty friend R seems to have quit the SART board because I had defied him over this play, and was allowed to. His suggestions were so bad I didn’t know I was meant to take them seriously, or that there would be hurt feelings if I didn’t. Complained about not being paid, and then was immediately remorseful that I did, the person whose fault it was no longer being present, and those I accused, innocent. Nothing is perfect in this life, or at least, so far as the theater is concerned, has yet been. But last night I was very happy. People had done their heartfelt best to give life to my words.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Vance Preview

Tom and I went to the preview of Vance last night. Everything was, or was approaching, satisfactory, and that’s a marvel for a playwright to say for dress rehearsal. Some flubs, some elisions, some insalubrious line changes, but for the most part the sort of production which makes a playwright grateful. Michael Mattison’s acting was nothing less than bravura. The Venus we finally settled on was perfection, and her maneuvering around the n-word graceful. The crowd that came to the B&B for the reception afterward was full of praise. What the crowd who did not come to the B&B thought is anybody’s guess. I couldn’t see what one would object to too strenuously, but other people’s peeves are always a surprise. G from All Souls sat in front of me. When it was over she turned around and said, in the most emphatic tones,. “Now That Was WORK.” I determined to take it as praise.

August 17, 2011

Another huge bout of garden care yesterday got the shade garden almost back to a civilized state. Today I pretty much got the south front in order. Just in time for the semester. Sunburnt and bug-bit.

Read student comments from the Cambridge trip, needing a pick-me-up and thinking something nice might be said. The statistics were all right, but those who took the time to comment in sentences were, of course, disgruntled: two detailed negative comments, both involving errors in fact, which didn’t prevent their being the ones I remember and chew on, wanting to go to their sources and say, “But that’s not TRUE.” It really doesn’t matter whether they’re true or not, you feel betrayed. I remember a proud father in the Pickerel introducing to me a daughter whom he clearly loved very much. They had just taken a European trip together, and when he was finished bragging on her and their relationship and all the wonderful places they visited, she said, “Of course, I never got the I-pod I was promised.” That was all she remembered, and now it’s all he remembers.

I wonder if students realize that the most common reaction to evaluation comments is stupefaction. Who? What? I did what? Were they really in my class?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

August 15, 2011

White blast of moonlight through my windows at morning.

Back into the property hunt. Saw some land and a boxy, kind of sweet house on Church Street in Weaverville. Many things I liked. Too many things I didn’t. Crappy bathroom, dank basement, the wrong trees. Came home thinking how perfect what I have is. This is not the right attitude for one who intends to move.

Monday, August 15, 2011

August 14, 2011

Woke from a dream wherein, drunk, I was trying to tell a cabdriver how to get to my boyhood house on Goodview Avenue. We kept getting interrupted by Clark Gable, who trotted down the street beside us, shouting into the window anecdotes about his cats.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

August 13, 2011

Telephone interview with the Citizen Times concerning Vance. Tony wants to make it this weekend’s big feature story. I try to make up thoughtful justifications for decisions in which very little thought was involved.

The tumult I hear outside my windows every now and then is not, as I thought, swifts invading the chimney, but rather the hummingbird wars. A rowdy male dive bombs anyone who tries to drink at the feeders, except his own mate, his ruby patch gleaming like a coal. There’s enough sugar water for a hundred birds, and I will be making more all summer, but he is not content with peace and bounty, but prefers the gleaming edge of war. For that he was made, and he is beautiful, if a little ridiculous. He wouldn’t be ridiculous if there were but one flower in a barren world.

Sang for Sophie and Amy’s commitment ceremony. It was sweet. The room was full of transgendered women who make, now, quite striking men. A church across the street from the celebration venue is for sale, and I conceived in my unaccountable heart the desire to buy it.

August 12, 2011

Slept last night without the fan. Either the night was cooler or I am now fully tropicalized.

Magnetic Field last night: as ever, meeting seldom-seen friends, the most exquisite menu.

Edited R’s book, tedious, but a labor of love. It is in so many ways not what one looks for, but in so many ways holy that one doesn’t know how to approach it, so one does as though one has read nothing before in his life. Beer with R at the Wedge in the afternoon. We watched the great and healing rains blast over the river, flooding everything in an instant. I was happy to be in his company.

Friday, August 12, 2011

August 11, 2011

Act II of Vance last night. Better still. Pleased with everyone, especially the “minor” characters who have found humor where I may or may not have supplied it. In the theater more time is spent dealing with a hoop skirt than getting at the meaning of lines. I will not try to change this. It is beyond anyone’s power. Discussion of the word “nigger.” Of course one hates it, but what to put in its place when it’s dead certain the word which would have been used in that time and place? One is either honest and offensive or coy and offensive. The most surprising people come out in favor of coy. I say, “do what you please.”

Heroic weeding in the heat of the day. The north front garden is now back in reasonable shape. Had visitors at the studio, Amy and Amy. Had no idea whether they loved the work or couldn’t wait to get out onto the street to mock it.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

August 10, 2011

Went to a rehearsal of Act 1 of Vance last night, dragging DJ along for a more objective eye. In his old concert hall at Mars Hill, he was deeply nostalgic. The first thing which must be related is relief that things are going as well as they are. Knots of anxiety released in my chest. R, playing Hattie, is in particular compelling and believable. One of the actors had several suggestions for dialogue changes. One of them was actually necessary, as the direction had gone in a direction which necessitated it. You don’t need to ask a character “Are you a ghost?” if the director decided to dress him as a ghost. The rest were. . . well, such things are problematic. One wishes for the actors to have a sense of ownership of a work, especially a new work, but most dialogue suggestions are based on the assumption that the playwright hasn’t quite thought things through. I accepted all of the suggestions in this case because they were thoughtful and did no harm, and one doesn’t want the reputation of being inflexible or “in love with one’s own words.” “He’s in love with his own words” is the response, I learned at NKU, of college freshmen to a playwright’s hesitancy to change dialogue to suit them. I try to forget the atrocity of Bailiwick at my back, where leniency with text contributed to disaster. Anyway, I was as happy last night that the actor was actively relating to the play as I was uncertain about the changes, so balance was struck. One wants to say one is in favor of changes which improve or don’t harm, but that is not really a public relations advancement, as nobody makes suggestions they believe will do harm. The hardest lines to justify are those which rely on rhythm– why it’s better to say “I woke today a common soldier” than “I woke today a soldier”– because actors are seldom– in between learning to bellow and to imitate pudding–given a sense of the rhythm of the language.

I covet Mars Hill’s clumps of gigantic hibiscus.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

August 9, 2011

Kelly had a Harry Potter themed birthday party for Quincy, complete with streamers in the colors of Gryffendor, and a sign for platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross. She is the best mother in the world; who knows how her son will end up remembering her? Justice is universally lacking in such matters. All the children at the party were beautiful, central casting birthday party children. There are ancient photos of me at similar birthday parties, though they had no particular theme. I always looked, then, very happy.

Excellent early morning at the studio. That was so long ago in this long day that I forgot it was part of the same one.

The backyard now owns a ziggurat of bags of dirt I bought from the going-out-of-business Citizens Hardware, which was my favorite store, and which I will lament, together with its spare, cheekboney, weather-darkened personnel. The owner helped me load my dirt. He said , “There’s no money to be made anymore. Nobody’s buying anything.” I didn’t need the dirt, but I needed to say farewell,

Monday, August 8, 2011

August 8, 2011

Massacre in Copley. One never expects to type those words.

Maud was relating to something in the back yard before dawn. I turned the light on to expose a little opossum scrounging around on the terrace.

Digging and weeding so that the stone back stairs are now completely revealed, perhaps for the first time since I’ve lived here. It actually looks quite noble.

Dream of chasing a lost kitten into Mr Ralphsnyder’s yard, and finding there a menagerie, teaming and mysterious, some of the creatures extinct elsewhere.

Met RN and two handsome sons at the Newbridge Café. Tried to think of an excuse to invite them to eat with me, but nothing surfaced in time.

S&P downgrades the US credit rating, an almost unbelievable deed of arrogance and self-delight, distinguished from most deeds of arrogance and self-delight in that it cost real people hundreds of thousands in real wealth. Justice would mean annihilation for this self-serving organization, that they might contemplate the place in history they made for themselves in the unemployment line. But the deed does have the effect of embarrassing the right people, and maybe that justifies it minimally. The hysterically partisan brinksmanship of the Republican Party needs to be remembered in the roll call of idiocy. They did ask for it. There are so few things– violence in Ulster, the Opium Wars-- where all the blame is on one side, that one wonders at them, and welcomes with awe one more– the American budget catastrophe of 2011-- among their number

Arrived at the Y apparently at peak time, and decided to do a zumba class rather than wait for the weights. It was hell. It was hell in ways that are difficult to convey, as I suppose the hellishness of hell is too. Overcrowded; overcrowded, with latecomers pushing in nevertheless; showoffs blocking your view so you had only a vague notion of what the leader was doing; big stinky fat guy making part of the already crowded room uninhabitable; women piling their bags and shoes on the floor for you to trip on, as there’s evidently something declasse about the women’s locker room; everyone rushing past you to “hydrate” between songs, as though one cannot go five minutes without a drink; the motions, when you can see them, too subtle and intricate and arbitrary to count really as exercise; overcrowded, so that one’s tiny fragment of claustrophobia begins to swell like a sponge dropped in water; the leader, when you catch a glimpse of her, a middle-aged Anglo lady trying to heat up the room like a Latin temptress; all the wrong people shrieking and having a gay old time, and you ruining everything with a bad attitude you cannot account for. I ran. I pulled weights out of someone’s hands and finished my workout, shivering from the near approach to hell. Outside, though. it was briefly raining, and one blessed that so hard nothing else mattered.

Reading my tome of the Medicis, wondering what causes all the best people, sometimes, to be gathered in the same place.

August 7, 2011

PayPal has decided my dispute in my favor, and returns 124 pounds to my account. That’s approaching $200 for tickets to Richard III at the Old Vic for a seat which did not exist. I expected no such outcome. I wonder where the get the money; surely the perps did not allow themselves to be located.

Sold my push mower to Kelly for $20. I could probably have used it, but Roland bought it and I therefore hated it.

Weeding, I found a luna moth caterpillar among the vine roots. It was colossal. You’re tempted to use comparisons involving body parts, but it was quite a bit bigger than both of my thumbs together without quite approaching the girth of an arm. It was emerald green, squirming, almost sickening in its fulness of life. I tossed it in the deeper thickets, where I did not intent to weed today, to let it pursue its beautiful destiny.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

August 6, 2011

Insulting minim of rain yesterday afternoon. Just increased the dampness of the heat.

DJ’s cat Gracie had an adventure this evening. As I was coming up the walk, she was being mobbed at the window by a throng of birds. I heard the same throng for several evenings clustered around my chimney, but this time I saw them, attacking the cat as nearly as they dared. Gracie eventually got over-excited and hurled herself through the window, expelling the screen and landing on the ground. The birds took to the bushes. Gracie was confused about what happened, and I had to chase her around for a while, before she climbed a tree, got frightened a little way up, and allowed me to take her in my arms. Returned her and fixed the screen. Her master was gone and might know nothing of it.

There was a foam-green, five inch long mantis on the red car when the salesman took me to look at it. Gorgeous. I asked if that could be included in the package. The salesman thought I was joking.

Watched Altman’s A Wedding on DVD. Nashville redone as a B picture. But it did call to mind the evening I met Lillian Gish. She had given her presentation on the early years of cinema at Hiram, and as I left she was standing, quite alone, in the lobby of Hayden auditorium, waiting for her driver. I had her to herself until her driver came. I don’t remember what we talked about, but I remember noting how lively, witty, strikingly beautiful she was at what was even then an advanced age. I remember the sound of her voice relating anecdotes from films such as Way Down East. In a game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, can get to D. W Griffith in two.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

August 5, 2011

Still, almost silent, torrid darkness of morning.

Kat has dropped out of Vance. She asks to be remembered if some other part appears some time.

Linda and David and Daniel appeared yesterday, leave this morning, perhaps have left already. The boys are alpha males, exactly the sort I almost never talked to in high school. Daniel is so handsome it seems almost artificial. They are full of sports and girls, and David of upcoming adventures at college, but each is the largest piece of the other’s universe. How fortunate to have permanent companionship. Reception for them at Avenue M. It was all merry and happy. The boys had Asheville at their feet last night, and I hope they made the best of it.

It has been a strange day. Woke dissatisfied, maybe wishing for sons rather than nephews. Excellent workout. I took the Prius to be inspected, but before two hours were over I had traded it in on a brand new model, of a color between rust and rose. With the trade-in it was, as DJ said, so cheap it was impossible not to buy it. But I was sad afterwards, as though I had betrayed my former car. Its anthropomorphizing reached epic proportions, and I could barely force my head back into a semblance of reason. It was not the merely car, surely, but something I had done or thought that day brought to mind all the betrayals, or things which could remotely be called betrayals, which I had committed in my life.

Since I was close, the first trip I took my new car on was up the Parkway to Sleepy Gap, where I turned north up the trail that was so familiar, though I may not have hiked it for several years. It had been long since I hiked anywhere alone, and it was a profound, and in some ways grievous, homecoming. The rage I used to build to when I had solitude to contemplate my life was gone. In its place was sadness– heavy, unfamiliar, but hugely to be preferred to the rage. The forest on a summer afternoon was almost unimaginably silent. At one point I heard grosbeaks twittering in the canopy, and at both ends of the journey was the polite, tentative pecking of woodpeckers. It all seemed mystical at the time, though I am not writing it the right way to convey that.

Sweating in the dark as I write. My bragging that I could live my life without air-conditioning begins to seem a little overblown.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

August 3, 2011

First reading of Vance at MHC last night. The outstanding impression was of the work I had to do to get it right. Did that work, and emailed out revisions this morning. The man playing Vance is sexy, which I didn’t anticipate. How would the script have changed had I known that? Did not gasp in horror at anyone’s ineptitude, nor they (audibly) at mine, so we are launched.

Second reading of Vance earlier tonight, when I delivered the revisions occasioned by last night’s reading. Improvement on all sides. The only part of play “development” that is really worthwhile is to hear your words in the mouths of actors. The skill a playwright needs at that moment is the ability to tell what is the actor’s problem and what is the line’s. My urge to brevity had left holes in the continuity, which had to be written closed. Also, I had scrimped and squeezed in order to suit a cast much smaller than the one I actually got.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

August 2, 2011

Watched the garden heave from beneath, what was surely a mole digging about, happy in his invisibility. The plants were being lifted quite high, and they seem to have sustained no damage. Watered, worked-out. Weeded deeply, getting a sunburn atop my sunburn. Sense of accomplishment in me now that I prefer not to investigate. Kat Williams has come aboard as Venus in Vance. If she can act as she can sing, we’re golden. Stopped to see Justin in the daycare center at the Woodfin Y. It was a joy to see him again. The children gathered around when I came in. I thought of the cats, because of the similar frankness and innocence. One tiny boy handed me his brother’s shoe. One girl took it back again. The girl was– I don’t know what to say– back in the unenlightened days we would have used the word “spastic”–I saw her with her brothers out in the summer light, taking her time and going the longest way in the world to get into the van, and I uttered such a prayer for her, out of the briar patch of the heart, snagging every briar on the way.. Take her. . . mend her. . . something. . . anything. . .and in the middle of that grief I was overcome by something that felt like grief but wasn’t. I realized I was praying in extremis for someone other than myself. My selfishness had been proud and unexamined–no, obsessively examined, but perversely–for so long. This was a sudden freedom and a blessing that left my emotions shattered. I tried to bless the sad little girl but she blessed me more. I have no idea what to do with this world,

Stee’s package returned after its travels. Still mysterious why there was a surcharge at the other end. Think I won’t open it, maybe hang it as art just as it is.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

August 1, 2011

A few minutes of rain last night, not enough to dampen the ground, though enough to leave a pool on the patio table. Good days in the studio. Reading about Gertler and Carrington et al gave me courage in my own work.

J phones, wanting to meet at Bele Cher. I pick up the phone and hear the message exactly 12 hours too late.