Monday, December 31, 2012
December 31, 2012
Spent most of the day revising poems and putting together the collection Organum.
Set aside time to help Tom move a mattress, but he changed plans.
My bounty of dry pastels came in the mail.
I do feel good tonight, as though nothing were THAT consequential, as though nothing quite tragic could stain the passage of one year into the next.
The Kings of the Earth Rise Up has reached round two in the history play contest I sent it to.
Talked to Marco on the phone. Wanted to go out with him tonight, but couldn’t tell whether he cherished a night to paint or just was painting because he couldn’t afford anything else. Could ask, or he could tell.
Jannequin on Spotify. Rachel’s husband recorded Lux Arumque and "A Spotless Rose" from Christmas Eve. They sounded good to me. Some harshness from the women, but that might be the quality of the surreptitious recording. There sure is a hell of a lot of coughing.
I have been sad almost as long as I have been an adult. It has never been my choice, despite what people say. I have been waiting for something to happen. I have been waiting a long time, but the thing I wait for is very great indeed, so great that it has been the light of my life even if it never comes. So do I plunge forward.
Sunday, December 30, 2012
December 30, 2012
Glow of fallen snow. There’s not much of it, but enough for an even blanket, and a hint of ivory under the blue night.
Had a hanger attached to my fossil fish, and the frame store lady handed it to me, brushed away my wallet and said, “Happy New Year.”
My stove was broken. I lifted up the top and fixed it. I note ths because I seldom associate myself with mechanical triumph.
Marin Marais on Spotify.
Am considering New Year’s resolutions, and most of them are specific and physical, which is good. With some exceptions, matters of the spirit are in order. This could change before the fall of another night.
Saturday, December 29, 2012
December 29, 2012
Supper with Adam at Jack-of-the-Wood. The bar was turbulent, noisy, just right. A has his heartbreaks, but it seems to me that he is doing everything, professionally, exactly right. We talked about the ballad play he has been writing. He carries with him his guitar, a couple of scrips he’s learning, the manuscript of his play, in case there’s occasion to work on one of them. He is the complete artist, and part of his delightfulness is that, that truth never crosses his mind.
Writing, revising, watching old movies on DVD. Last night it was The Rains Came, 1939. I saw it n TV as a kid and for some reason it stuck. There are certain evocative images– the hero clinging to the statue of Queen Victoria in the flood, the hard-as-nails Rani, the cracking dam–I anticipated and relished, though it has been forty years since I saw them. I had forgotten the plot.
Growing to hate the flat-faced, giant cat that eats the crows’ food and attacks Maude through the closed window.
Friday, December 28, 2012
December 28, 2012
Dusting of snow when I returned from Georgia. All is well there. Linda allows her sons to create around them the perfect boy paradise, full of other boys, the girls appreciated and yet held at distance, as they were in times far past. David is emotional and transparent, with a soldier’s paradoxical sweetness. Daniel may be emotional, but he’s not transparent, so he keeps one guessing. David went winter camping, and was in heaven gathering his gear around him. He could survive a holocaust with all those provisions up on the snowy mountain. We went to see Les Miserables, which was deeply affecting, besides making me ashamed of the petty things I find to complain about. When I walked through my back door, Maud was staring at a Cooper’s hawk perched on the porch rail. The oddest thing was, little birds were feeding four feet away at the feeders. Does he not eat little birds? Had he sat there so long they’d forgotten him? His disappearance when he sensed me was so fast I couldn’t even mark which way he had gone. Saw Lincoln on my own last night. Spielberg’s vulgarity is invincible. Even bravura performances from many cast members– I think Tommy Lee Jones and Day-Lewis most of all–did not quite save it. Moon rose in ghostly mist as I headed for the cinema.
Woke this morning to a dream in which I was in the hospital for some slight thing, I thought, but there was a red bottle on the desk outside my room, and Heather Hamilton came to visit me, and she had once worked in that hospital, and she told me the red bottle meant I was under “professional” care, for something serious. The other part of the dream involved a band of divinities or super-heroes who went about generating lovely surprises for desperately ill children. I was surprised that they considered me one of those children. I was at the same time one of THEM, one of the spirits, and I listened with bemusement to the sorts of things they thought I would like as a surprise. My costume, or identity, was a sort of imp, like you might see on a Christmas ornament.
My glorious fish fossil arrived in the mail.
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
December 25, 2012
The dark for a change is evening rather than morning. Listening to Bach on Spotify. Christmas Eve service went well at the Cathedral, with the normal overflowing house. People in the know were in their seats an hour before the concert began. Though I’d napped a scandalous portion of the day, I was exhausted and had to rouse myself to sing. A faintly soporific golden glow suffused everything. Egg nog at DJ’s afterward, then through moonlight to bed. Rose late in the morning, but I saw by their bowl that I had already been up to feed the cats: sleep-feeding, I guess, as there was no recollection. Sat in Edna’s and wrote, and talked to the Kelley brothers and their dad. I wore my Santa hat. T is of the opinion that the MT is closing after March. The favored arrow in their quiver is secrecy, so who knows? Then off to the Parkway, climbing up Beaver Dam, as I almost never do, but should, as it’s the closest entrance. Maybe I don’t take it because I remember it from before houses climbed up beside it, infesting the forest all the way up to the ridge.
It was not quite the perfect day for hiking–a little somber– but good enough, and my stiff body felt its kinks working out. I was not in a very good mood, to put the lightest possible coloring upon it. Met two pugs sniffling and mumbling their way up the trail, their master behind. He said, “They’re just learning to track.” Another gang of four dogs was around me before I knew, which was a shock, as I think of myself as more attentive than that. I was speaking to them as their master came up all dressed in yellow. The foot traffic dismayed me, so I turned up what I hoped was a kind of side trail, aiming for the top of the mountain. I had climbed less than fifty feet when I was face-to-face with a bear. He had been watching me climb up from the main trail. He was backed into a thicket of tangled vines that must have afforded him some shelter. I’ve already noted that I was not in a good mood, so at the end of deciding what to do, I found I had decided to charge the bear. I’m not a good runner, and certainly not a good runner on a hill that steep, but I made my intentions clear, aiming right toward him, as silent and ambiguous as I could be. He stood up, but the vines were at his back and he didn’t get quite erect. I kept coming. He stood very still, his beady eyes on me. I thought I might yell or something, to relieve the tension, but there actually was no tension. I was calm, curious, prepared for anything, The Zen warrior. Twenty feet away, he jerked violently, exploded through the back of his vine hut, and fled away from me up the side of the mountain. He was a much better runner than I, and soon I was solitary and bearless on the mountain. I was not, at that time, wearing my Santa hat.
Came home and napped. Sleep was the spell the bear put on me. Hope to spend a chunk of the evening transcribing the scribbles I’ve been writing at the café, fighting the terrible music.
First Stage sent a DVD with Overseas. It was faulty and wouldn’t play. I knew as I was putting it in the machine that it was faulty and wouldn’t play; still, one puts it into the machine as though all chances were equal.
Monday, December 24, 2012
Christmas Eve wins me back from whatever mood I had sunk into. I was a happy kid–ignorantly and blessedly happy-- and though I am neither so ignorant nor so blessed now, this night returns me to that grace for a little time.
Always think of mother on this night. Christmas made her so happy, too. I got it from her. She would decorate and over-decorate and make hot chocolate, and, that one time, have things her way. She was reliving a childhood, as I do, when she was happy. I can’t think too much, because her life ended sadly, perhaps bitterly, and the idea of that makes me frantic. I have stood by her grave and begged to know what to do to make it right, but of course no suggestion was forthcoming, or possible. But I think of her now and am happy and sad at the same time. Every Christmas I have thought that the next one would be all right, that I would spend it in the arms of lover or spouse, a life and a destiny settled around me, but that has never happened and now never will, and the bewilderment does not abate even for an hour. Still, I’m joyful on this night, despite of it all, because of it all. I’m the kid who gets no presents and still believes in Santa Claus. I feel there’s some balance there, some blessing that I would appreciate more if I stood outside of it. But appreciate it I do, enough, so that this night retains its ancient magic. In two hours I go to church to sing the Christ Child in.
The Cathedral has adopted the rather self-delighted practice of refusing to acknowledge the season until Christmas Day. "Merry Christmas!" is met with frowns until after the Christmas Eve night service. Our merriment is discouraged until after the rest of the world's has peaked. There are only songs of repentance and expectation in mass, and even the Festival of Lessons and Carols transfigured into Lessons and Music. This practice is punctilious without being correct. It draws attention to the worshiper rather than the Worshiped.
December 24, 2012
George invited us to brunch at the Givens Estates, a luxurious retirement community. Despite the luxury, I found it depressing, horrifying. Spent energy wondering how to avoid such a place. The two obvious ways-- die before you need it or maintain good health to the very end– depend on very undependable good luck. This time everything was pleasant. I felt the same about the place my father ended up– no complaints to be made, altogether admirable, altogether horrifying. George is a cultured man surrounded by books and art. One moves forward into palpable void.
Sunday, December 23, 2012
December 23, 2012
Odd waking. Disoriented, a little, in the familiar surroundings.
Finished the draft of the Thanksgiving play in the café yesterday morning. Typing it out onto the computer will be the first rewrite. Fighting my own handwriting will be a year’s end penance.
Saw Marley again last night. Met with Casey and then his girlfriend, and got caught up a little on the exciting life in Chicago. I’d looked forward to C’s company, but it was clear the evening would be more enjoyable for him with his girlfriend, so they took our tickets and I bought another in The Remoteness. MM had picked up some of the mislaid pieces, and the performance was, if anything, stronger than the night before. The audience, though, was turbulent. I sat beside a very big teenage boy, and though that in itself is pleasant enough, my ribs are bruised from his flailing elbows, and never for one moment did he stop vibrating his leg in place. It was like watching a play from atop a washing machine. That was, all in all, a little sweet, for while he was vibrating he was watching the play. Yet around us people were coming and going and whispering to one another. A number of special people were in the audience, and though one applauds that, in theory, how does one profit from an event one fidgets through or talks through or has to leave–repeatedly-- because of hyperactivity or, perhaps, simple lack of self-discipline? What does one say to their caretakers other than “a stage play is perhaps not the best entertainment choice”? We mistrust sacred ceremonies, because they challenge social pieties, but there are some moments more significant to our souls than daily life, and they require special rules. It is not healthy for people to be invariably, invincibly the center of their own lives. Theater can heal this, but only if you let it. It is not all right for anyone to drain attention from the stage for any reason. Hands fly up with exceptions, but I say there are no exceptions of choice. You can’t help having a heart attack or a grand mal, but that’s where it ends. No conversation is necessary while a scene goes. If a child still needs your moment-by-moment care, don’t bring him to adult theater. There need be no curtain speech about turning off cell-phones, for bringing them to the theater should not even be considered. There is nothing so urgent in your life that you need that phone. If there is, stay home and tend to it. Theater is time for you to stand outside yourself. If you can’t or refuse to stand outside yourself, you have wasted your own money and everyone else’s. Your mind is on the stage, or you stay home. No adult needs to leave a play during an act, and if they do, they shouldn’t have come.
When I start in on tirades like this, people think I’m championing respect for actors and the like, and of course I am, but there is far more to it. It’s for the audience member, to extract the full nectar of the experience. The theater is a sacred space where things happen to one outside the power of one’s daily life. You must leave daily life behind for that little space, as if you don’t, the magic will not work. Your hourly concerns must be set aside; you must yourself for a brief time be removed from the center of your own attention. It is a ceremony of transfiguration, and there is no transfiguration to one clinging to every bit of the daily self. There are loud musicals and laugh-riots where one can go and behave as one does in one’s own living room. Choose that, if you need to. Come to serious theater to forget who you are. Come to serious theater for the holy.
I think the same about the classroom. Those who drag in late with their coffee mugs and their McDonald’s breakfasts and their cell phones ever at ready are not actually attending class. They’re allowing class to be a part of their own scattered and incidental lives, maybe, and they may end up accumulating credits, but they have not attended class. We don’t teach children how to leave their comforts behind. We’d call it bullying or insensitivity, I suppose. On mornings like this I think this is the big cheat, the chief educational disaster. We do not tell our children that they cannot be themselves without constant challenge. We do not even suggest the concept of self-discipline. We’re good at giving a sense of self-worth, a sense of entitlement, but we fail to imply that there must be real qualities necessary to individual worth, real achievements associated with entitlement. We do not suggest that some steps up require dropping everything we have gathered in our arms. Go one hour without your water bottle. Do not unwrap that candy right this minute. Do not necessarily obey your bladder’s first tiny signal. Let it grow strong with the rest of you. No, you actually haven’t received an important text in the last five minutes. Let it go. Forget it. Everything will be better if you do.
I want to remember to add all this to my syllabi, so my students can resent me right off.
Saturday, December 22, 2012
December 22, 2012
Cold and windy yesterday. Not that could nor that windy, but more than we were used to. I learn from the cats how much time can be spent curled up among the blankets.
Ruminate Magazine emails with the news that “Saturdays He Drove the Ford Pick-Up” has won their fiction prize. I read an interview with last year’s winner, and the whole enterprise is very serious indeed. So is the money that comes with it. Three short stories of mine have won big prized in the last year and a half. Maybe it’s time to get together a collection. Maybe it’s time to write another story.
NC Stage last night for the premier of Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol. It was by far my most serious effort at producing (setting aside New York and London of bitter memory) and, so far as I could see, a resounding success. Michael was a force of nature as the one portraying all the characters, an actor working for two hours at absolutely the highest level. The play itself was good, founded upon one of the true and ever-rewarding classics. Received much praise for “producing,” though all I did was sign a check. But that is what art needs more than anything else: for someone to sign the check and get out of the way.
Tried to get my shaggy locks shorn, but there was no room in the barber’s chair.
Brought M and A the painting Solstice for their unborn son, Sean.
Friday, December 21, 2012
December 21, 2012
It’s the 21st and the curse of the Maya has not yet wiped us out. Of course, it is quite early.
Woke with the most vivid dreams of my dream house. The preciseness of it is what is amazing– the details of cupboard and banister, the colors of the rooms. the mowers sitting in the shed, the kinds of trees in the backyard. It was a “dreamhouse” by no standard measure, old and shambling and eccentric, but I loved every inch of it with an uplifting love. Just before waking, I was running over in my head the kind of loan I might ask for at the bank, chastising myself–even in the dream–for always assuming people are going to say “no.”
Cantaria Christmas Concert was spectacular. We exceeded a full house, and standers lined the back and dim sitters the side rooms Everyone who spoke to me after said it was our best concert ever, and I have no reason to doubt it. After fourteen or so years the organization has taken off; we continue to grow and seem to be able to do no wrong. Three second basses were gone because of travel or illness, leaving me quite alone, and I oversang. My throat is harsh this morning. One more contra C would have been the death of me. Mrs P came up afterward and, after she praised the concert, attacked me a little inexplicably for being so old and having endured in the choir so long. If her point was that she wishes that we were younger and handsomer, I am with her. Our two young bucks– both especially nice-looking–wouldn’t have to tie their own shoes if they didn’t have a mind to. My own shoes annihilated me. I’d actually trudged to TOPS for new ones, bought them, but wouldn’t wear them because it was raining and I didn’t want them to be ruined. Ruin the back instead. The guy at TOPS was wondrous helpful. He brought out five or six boxes, and I think I disappointed him by buying the first pair.
Painted well yesterday, finishing a very strange piece on a round ground. Need to tie the big window shut every time, against the icy wind. What the installer could have been thinking is itself past thought, wanting to secure a big corner window with a length of rope.
Many projects, floating. I’m supposed to pluck one out of the wind when it drifts close enough.
Thursday, December 20, 2012
December 19, 2012
Drove with Jack and DJ to Greenville to sing at the Warehouse Theater with Pride of Greenville. Route 25 at twilight is lovely, even in colorless winter. I like Greenville, and there was a sweet late lunch at Mellow Mushroom, but all in all the trip was more grueling than pleasurable. The Greenville boys sang simple repertoire badly, but with spirit and hometown favor, and I think their audience was pleased. We sang– how should I know? I couldn’t hear us, nor could I barely hear myself in the dead space of the theater. Long drive home with the ragged moon to our left. Drove with my brights on when I could, hoping to see creatures, but there were none. Watched R, who is evenly, tragically divided between a desire to be a Broadway diva and the desire to be a saint.
There was a Christmas miracle, one I had set up but didn’t fully expect to happen. The wind blew many of the red balls which I had hung on the redbud down, and before I had a chance to restore them, someone else did. I smiled and drove on.
Cooking a Brussels sprouts and cabbage slumgullion, listening to Christmas music on the radio, drinking my favorite Spanish white, with the aftertaste of roses.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
December 18, 2012
Unexpected flood of Christmas spirit came over me yesterday. I was in the Fresh Market when I caught myself singing carols under my breath–though hardly under my breath. Rushed home and finished decorating the tree, which I had left in an austere and hasty state because the spirit was not in it. When I was done with the tree inside I went out and decorated the redbud on the street with red balls. I don’t expect them to last right down there on the public thoroughfare, but maybe they will, and wouldn’t it be a Christmas miracle if they did?
Kyle, DJ , Russell and I celebrated Russell’s birthday by seeing The Hobbit. I was prepared to be quibbling and hostile, but the great and large film won me over. Jackson does “improve” the story more than he needs to, but, as with LOTR, sometimes the changes are valuable. Was living it after the first half hour. I gave R the painting The Culvert, which he had admired when it hung in the restaurant.
Woke dreaming that I was visiting people in the hospital. One of them was my mother. I never talked to her in the dream, but I kept meaning too. Dreamed also that my camera was broken, and when the real cats jumped on me I was taking the dream camera apart to find a broken golden reflector inside.
Monday, December 17, 2012
December 17, 2012
Portrayed Saint Nicholas at the church breakfast yesterday. I forget the event from year to year, but it is a thing which brings me pleasure in retrospect. To a generation of kids I’m St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, and I am cognizant of the honor. Once I went to look at a house, and a kid whispered to her dad “That’s Saint Nicholas!”
Fairly good Cantaria dress yesterday afternoon. I completely lost pitch where I never had before. Don’t know why. Linda was up from Atlanta with her friend Jim. Kyle struggling with is sopranos, Steve with his baritones.
Pulled a t-shirt out of the drawer, and four stinkbugs fell out of it, three of them alive.
Saturday, December 15, 2012
December 15, 2012
Yesterday was a day lightened, oddly, by phone calls. The comfort of a voice is always near, and yet I almost never think of it. Talked with Casey, who leaves Chicago for “home” today. Talked with Mike A who is taking Nashville by storm. Call from Marco–his annual apology for ignoring me, but better than the void.
Planted tree lilies (I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a tree lily) in the space where the peppers were. The afternoon warmth around me in the planting may have been the last.
Worked on my Thanksgiving play, fighting off the café sound system, as I’m apparently determined to do. Wrote a Christmas poem, to take the place of the annual biographical catchup, which always embarrassed me a little, wondering who really was interested. Took cards off the YMCA Christmas tree, which told me what gifts to buy for what kids; bought those gifts.
Cara sposa, amante cara, dove sei?
Friday, December 14, 2012
December 14, 2012
Difficult to describe yesterday. “Injurious” might be the right word, because it came to me first, but maybe “jagged” is a better one, for though there was injury, there were also moments which would have been joyful in another context.
Received the first critique of The Sun in Splendor in the café, where, after an off-hand “did you like it?” I was told that the transitions were clumsy and though “it contained a whole lot of things” it as just not up to what was expected of me. Devastated, not because I too much feared that the analysis was right, or will be universal, but for that to be the first thing I hear seemed cruel and gratuitous. It will stick with me no matter what comes after. If it IS right, then things are much worse, for it would call my own critical faculties into question. Upon them I had built everything that remains.
In September I’d contracted for a landscape guy to clear off the front terrace, which had gotten away from me and was wild and thorny, a big tangle out of which sprayed random flowers. I did like it that way, but feared that the neighbors were annoyed by it, that it was bringing down property values, or something. Morning as I read the e-mail that the crew was finally to come, a pang of remorse shot through me. Where would the birds go? Where would they shelter against the winter if not in my thicket? I was looking out the window when the big machine took its first bite of the hillside. The fish and the cats heard me cry out. It was as if the blades had struck me. When I stood at the top of the slope when they were done, I was crying. My beautiful hill was gone. It does look very tidy now, very neat, smelling richly of mulch. I asked them to spare the roses, and they did, the thin whacked sticks poking out of the mulch like trees in Hiroshima.
My beautiful hill is gone.
Staggered to the Y and did a zumba class. The effort to concentrate on the liquid Latin moves did in fact take my mind off other things. I do not naturally move that way. Drove to the studio and painted. Received–in one day--a complaint about a grade. “I thought I had a A in that class for sure.” In my experience, without exception, the person who complains about a grade has ALWAYS been elevated out of pity from a grade still lower than that. That is an astronomical level of irony.
In the evening Russell and I had dinner at LAB (excellent) and took in The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Abridged at NC Stage. At dinner Russell and I talked more than we ever have. I wonder why it is important to share the inner life? My impulse to keep it secret doesn’t work that well, after all. The play was remarkable in that it proved a conviction that I always had but found difficult to illustrate: that, to be fully entertaining, even idiocy has to be intelligent. The evening was idiotic, but sublimely so, intelligent actors sending the most intelligent of writers up in a fireburst of absurdity, which only genius can sustain and survive. Better acting cannot be imagined. Every joke hit. I believe it was the most I’ve laughed in public, ever, nor were there any pity laughs, for someone trying so hard you have to throw them something. Got to a point of exhaustion where you tried to fight the laughter off to save yourself, but just couldn’t. Bravi!
Got out of my car at the end of all of this, the car lights snapping off under a dome of pulsing, piercing blue-white stars interrupted by the tracery of trees. Being a theist is like being in love with the most beautiful woman in the world. However pissed off you are, however wounded or disgusted, there is a moment when she turns in the starlight or at an open widow, and the only response is awe-struck silence.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
December 13, 2012
Hit two parties last night. The Chancellor’s do at the student center was enjoyable, I thought, and I got to talk to people I haven’t seen in semesters, in years, most of whom rolled their eyes at outrages or administrative transgressions I, luckily, didn’t know about. You learned not to ask, “So, how’s it going?” The crowd was thick with police and groundskeepers and very thin in faculty. Food: surpassing. Met History’s new Asheville history prof, who is handsome as a model, and at whom I had to prevent myself from staring. Someone said they were taking attendance. In conversation, two friends decided that the quality they admired in me (maybe the only one) was insouciance. I don’t seem to myself the least bit insouciant. I think of myself as grimly attached to each moment, and almost pathetically sincere. Happy for the camouflage, though. The next party, at Brew & View, was louder and frayed at the edges, but excellent good fun. Professors there expressed astonishment that I had gone to the official party, which apparently in the past had proved disappointing. Or perhaps, if I savored the vibe right, attendance was thought of as a kind of toadying. I never toady, so the accusation of it never bothers me. Wandered toward Biltmore for rehearsal, having two frothy white drinks at the Bohemian bar beforehand. Drinks at Avenue M afterward, This morning’s slight but outspoken headache suggests that I’ve been drinking too much. Dark through the windows. A package arrived from Dutch Bulbs, which means I have some more planting to do. I have no recollection of the order, so my fist Christmas surprise will be opening the box.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
December 12, 2012
Many have pointed out that never again will we be able to record a triple date: 12/12/12, nor the hour on the clock 12:12, 12/12/12. This disturbs me more than I can account for. Some principle of order is being left behind, the tossing waves of temporal chaos lying before.
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
December 11, 2012
Tom visits to borrow a DVD, remarks on the bird-friendliness of my yard as a cloud of brown wings arises with his approach. I am lucky in my birds this winter. The brown hydrangea thicket boils with them.
Humanities exam last night. Everyone but one does badly, and no one seems to take it very hard. I gave them chocolates, so maybe the blow fell lightly. The one who does excellently to the last is a rough kid who sits in the back with his cap turned to the side– the last one you would guess. Prissy administrators take it upon themselves to chide the faculty for not meeting the schedules set arbitrarily for them by prissy administrators. An administrator’s only job is to help the faculty get its job done. Things run smoother when the actualities are remembered.
Tried to book a flight to London. The blocks and crosses were clearly supernatural, so I withdrew from that project at least temporarily.
Decided never to use my elbows when arising from the supine, so to keep my abdominals as long as possible.
Monday, December 10, 2012
December 10, 2012
Weekend so jumbled it’s difficult to remember what was experienced and what thought of. Lessons and Carols on Saturday. My students came, which was nice, and G brought her mother, but the event felt ragged and tired. The music was OK, though there was a vibe the opposite of relaxed confidence from the podium. The readings were amateurish, meant to flatter rather than to uplift. Maybe I was just not in the mood. Worked on my play in the café Sunday morning. I take it as an exercise to fight off the lousy canned music and to concentrate, though I think the lousy canned music is actually helping this one, giving it a contemporary and resilient tone. Long and disappointing Cantaria rehearsal, wherein we seem to have retreated from the level of excellence achieved at our workshop. Problems with retention, with learning something and keeping it learned. But, drinks afterward, and I forgot about it. My shoulders when they move sound like a can of pebbles. Looked up my surname, and found a surprising number of us, concentrated in Texas. Up in the dark, wondering what I’m supposed to do . . .
Saturday, December 8, 2012
December 8, 2012
Curious dry, warmish winter continues. I let only a sweeping glance dart at the ground, lest the wrong shoots be coming up at the wrong time.
At loose ends last night, wondering whether I should go out to the theater or lie here nursing my off stomach. The phone rang, and it was John L inviting me downtown. Met John and Graelin and Justin at Southern, and we sat outside and drank and gossiped and laughed, and only now have I been sufficiently grateful for a merry night, a definitive interruption of what had been a gathering gloom. We moved from Southern to Sazerac, where we sat on the roof and– were there stars? I don’t remember. But in any case, I was happy. I think I may have induced them to come to evensong tonight. Brilliant conversation from them all, John able to navigate all intellectual waters, Graelin selective, definitive, Justin impassioned. Justin has lost weight, and his blond male beauty and quirky, jerky body language are lovely to look upon. One must smile, and hope for him to take off his cap again, and smooth the golden hair, and twist his head to the side to gaze at Graelin, who is the woman one would have picked for him, had one been given the power to pick. I’m still smiling over everything. Do other professors get invited out drinking by their students? I suppose they do, but they are maybe not so astonished by it.
Rose late–day is dawning– but feeling fully purged from whatever ailed me.
Friday, December 7, 2012
December 7, 2012
Put Messiah on the CD player and decorated the Christmas tree. I was in a strange spirit while doing it, not the one I meant to be in. For an hour or so I was the darkest Scrooge who was ever under this roof.
That memory and all others are filtered through the memory of last night’s sickness, a violent stomach issue, like flu, but without the body aches. My stomach is still curdled, my bowels are iffy and my head aches at this waking hour. There must have been some fever, for I was hallucinating a little, and interpreted the illness as one some kids in the group I was dreaming about were having. I was trying to quiz them about exactly what was wrong (they couldn’t tell me) a while before I realized the illness was my own. I ate bread yesterday– could all that possibly have come from that? Vomited red, hoping it was the red of the cranberry juice from the cosmopolitans.
Turned in senior grades, with the inevitable last-hour phone calls to and inevitable excuse-making from those who had not completed the work.
A rose on the back terrace, frozen twice, still offers a battered bloom, and a bud behind it.
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
December 5, 2012
First thing in the morning, email from Joanie Pratt:
The sad news, gulp, Charlie died May 27 after 3 months with a stage IV glioblastoma (brain tumor, the most.aggressive kind, surgery too risky, as it was located near/on the speech lobe of the brain)... The biopsy was Feb.23, and March 6, the day before a combo of radiation and oral chemo began, he woke up unable to speak, but able to understand everything. So began 6 weeks of therapy (he wanted to try this with the hope of gaining some "extra "time) but each day became increasingly difficult as he gradually lost the use of his hands, legs, and all parts of his body...yet he could be at home, had an appetite and no pain until the last 3 days, when (we had Hospice all of May..bless them), I could give him morphine to make him more comfortable. Our kids and grandkids all came( as they had often) the 26th and 27th, all gave him hugs, and Sarah and Tim stayed for the dinner the 27th and the three of us held his hands while passed very peacefully. We felt amazed that we could be together for that moment , and felt sure he probably "chose" our all being together as the moment to leave us.
Charlie was one of the most decent men it was my privilege to know. He gave me Exeter, and remained my friend thereafter. His death was a shock (I’d written him on behalf of Richard H-J). It never crossed my mind that he could die. Generations of students (and not only students) are incalculably better for having known him. This must have been in the Exeter alumni magazine, and I just breezed by. His buzzing New England voice is in my head in the morning dark. I am glad for that. It is a comfort.
Pot-luck in place of our Memoirs exam last night. It was joyful, intimate, sweet. Left there to attend a meeting at the Apothecary. Six young men and one young woman and I discussed the place, what it needs, how it should move forward, but what I was thinking mostly the whole time was how on-task, inventive, ego-less, responsible, foresightful, humorous they all were. I was so proud of them, glad to deliver the world into their hands, and the hands of their like. Had a drink at Sazarac afterwards, in the mellow December night where people were walking in shorts and shirtsleeves. A pretty girl from New York was singing really quite wonderful original songs, mostly to the two other girls who formed her entourage.
Charlie, ave atque vale.
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
December 3, 2012
Twilight. I always write at morning, before morning, and I’m having difficulty summoning the appropriate vocabulary. The light I see through the study window at dawn would never be mistaken for the light through the same window at dusk. The light now is greenish gray, a little spent, like a happy child after a day of play. The past many nights one could follow the moon in its course from the front window over the roof to the windows in back. Pale light, pale gleam, the wood and weeds etched black and silver. Excellent morning at the studio. I made no visionary progress, but I decided what to do with old, problematic canvases, so when the new vision begins to unfold, it can do so unencumbered. Bought a Christmas tree, after having rather finally decided not do. Impulse must be preferred over decision. I think somewhere in the back of my mind was Lawrence the Fish, how it is his first year of life and he never had a Christmas tree. I’ll present this as a joke if I ever mention it aloud, though I’m not sure it entirely is. I had tree one year because Conrad was so sick, and I thought it might cheer him. Forest scent in the rooms. I’ll decorate it tomorrow, maybe, or the day after. It can stand bare and pagan for the time. Something very youthful about the day; I feel happy and melancholy at the same time, the way I did when I was a kid. If all days could begin at the gym before dawn, continue at the Starbucks terrace as dawn was breaking, me writing away at a play in perfect harmony with the coming day and the passing voices, if I could buy a Christmas tree every day and have a sweet nap full of dreams that made me laugh out loud, then all might be well. It is quite dark now. The moon has not risen, nor shall it for a time. My university mail was full of directives for things that HAD to be done today. We’ll, they weren’t, and nobody is the worse for it. Scolded for setting the Laurel Forum back wrong after the senior readings on Sunday. I thought I’d rather improved the plan, but–. I do feel as though it were thirty years ago. I have no idea why.
Saturday, December 1, 2012
November 28, 2012
Dream: I am in Galway with Titus my cat. I’m walking the streets with him, and we are happy. I see a notice for an audition for the choir of St. Muire’s, and I decide to audition. I sit with the basses and wait. Then I realize I’ve lost track of Titus. I thought he would just follow me, but he hadn’t, and I flee the church, running through medieval streets looking for him. Then Maud the living cat steps on the radio remote, which causes the radio to turn on, and I am awake these hours before dawn, in my green Ireland sweatshirt, trying to catch up with the pointy end of the semester.
Actor Arnold Weiss writes from Hollywood praise of Overseas. He doesn’t say which part he played, but the letter was gratifying on all counts. I apparently have a fan base in Albuquerque. . . .
6:00 PM. Just now the blazing moon breaks from the top of Sunset Mountain, a great golden planet on his north. Moments ago it was tangled in the trees of the mountain, as though he were right there, on the earth, amid the owls and the sleepy squirrels.
I reported my Titus the Cat dream on Facebook, and the people there convinced me that Titus missed me in the other world and had come back to visit. The degree to which that was a comfort was sublime or pathetic, depending on how you look at it.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
November 27, 2012
Dim, wintery, cold moon moving toward full.
HJ has come back into my life at full throttle. In a long phone monolog, he caught me up on a life of almost incredible success, declining, now, to a life of almost inexplicable obscurity. He leapt from Exeter to Harvard. He studied with Heaney and Borges. If I understood correctly, he was senior editor of a publishing house and ran Carnegie Hall. He had anorexia. . . and gastric by-pass. . . and for a while couldn’t eat, but could drink, and so became an alcoholic. He was almost back together and became an alcoholic again. . . coming to rest at last and at bottom in a family home in Asheville– which explains, anyway, his ghostly re-appearance. Details went by too fast, and lacked the enriched information of a face-to-face. HJ is bewildered by all this, bewildered by the success which he couldn’t see how he deserved, bewildered by the catastrophes which seem utterly to have forgotten his former life. One thing I remember from long ago was that, even as a boy, he seemed confused by the honors heaped on him, uncomfortable, looking over his shoulder to see if there was whispering behind upraised palms. There wasn’t. Everyone thought he was better than he thought himself. The personal history lesson was a build-up to his asking me to help him, which I am glad to do, sorting out poems so he can apply for fellowships, writing recommendations to employers whom I might know. I considered how his story is an alternate version of mine, with two differences. A boy coming out of Ellet High School in Akron Ohio would not, under any circumstance, whatever his attainments, have the same opportunities as a boy coming out of Exeter, heading, automatically, toward Harvard. There would be no way fully to catch up, ever. Balancing that, though, is that, in my life anyway, both the temptation and opportunity for dissipation were less. If there were plaudits I positioned myself far enough away that the sound of them wouldn’t drive me off course. I dedicated myself early on to protecting my gifts, and in that, at least, I have been successful. Whether that was actually a benefit cannot now be tested. Perhaps if I had a couple of sessions at rehab or committed some public outrage, things would have gone better for my career. This is to say that after HJ’s outpouring, I felt very strange, as if I were Achilles’ big brother who stayed at home, who heard the tales from the Front, and welcomed the battered body home, unsure whether he had taken the better part.
Chall closes his restaurant, You’d think being excellent would suffice, but it doesn’t.
Monday, November 26, 2012
November 26, 2012
Extended, elaborate dream before waking. I was being thwarted by my wife-- a very powerful woman, apparently. I don’t know whether we were rivals in real estate or politics or what, but it felt like a real thing whose particulars are now blurred. One of my daughters was on her side, and it hurt my feelings. But one of my sons was on my side. He was funny and quick, and noting his funniness and quickness, I realized I was an archetype, that I was in fact Zeus and the son was Hermes. With this in mind I pursued another daughter, who was sullen and lackadaisical. I convinced her to come to my (quite beautiful) apartment in Rome and go through some kind of ceremony, which dissolved layers of indifference and actual darkness around her. She was Artemis, and with her on my side, we began to turn the tide. But there was a deep ache in my life, which was another son whom I missed terribly, who was under the same darkness as his sister. I captured him, put him through the ceremony, and his beauty when he was released made my heart sing. He was Apollo. My dream life has been quite deliberate of late. I lie down in a spare hour and summon a life alternative to one which grows more and more disagreeable, not by getting worse, but by dwelling seemingly forever on the same declining plain.
Fire at church yesterday morning. The alarm went off, and people looked at each other to decide what to do. Kyle and Todd plunged ahead with the service, as they should have done, for all the fire was in a plastic waste basket in the men’s choir restroom. The fire department arrived at confidence-building speed, and the handsome firemen soon had everything (there was not much of it, after all) under control. They figured it was deliberately set.
Sort of good Cantaria rehearsal. Some rage possesses me there, to which I cannot quite assign sufficient blame. It gives me joy to have Richard there, one of my Exeter charges all grown up.
Began writing a play called Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving. Continue it at the café in a little notebook I must have bought for the purpose, fighting off the terrible music. I have written more plays this year than any other, but one, but this year’s plays are better.
Saturday, November 24, 2012
November 24, 2012
Dedicated Friday at the Y. Ran over two miles without thinking about it, reading The Sun in Splendor, finding only two typos, stopping then only to take an aerobics class, which turned out to be mostly stretching. I’d lost track of how little I stretch. How my body protested being forced back into it! I was the only man in a class of women, and the female instructor’s eagerness to adjust and guide my body stopped just sort of indecency. Not that I minded.
Got up under starlight (under beautiful and surpassing starlight, Venus brilliant in the east, Jupiter radiant in the west) this morning to repeat the regimen, but the Y was dark and creepy. Forgot it was Saturday. The stars still burned brilliant when I settled down at Edna’s to write on my Thanksgiving play, called Thanksgiving. The worst music in the world–jazzy holiday songs and popped-down jazz standards–didn’t wholly prevent the creative flow.
Yesterday I attacked the front terrace harder than it’s been attacked before, sawing and clipping and ripping out. Leather gloves were barely sufficient against the great daggers of the rose canes. Found last summer’s mockingbird nest, all lined with snugly plastic. My hatred of wild honeysuckle is almost mystical.
When not gardening or working out, spent yesterday on the phone to Mombai, trying to get Microsoft to correct a billing error. Exhausted, I withdrew from the fray vaguely assured (but by no means certain) that I had been victorious. The apparatus is expressly designed to prevent communication with anyone who can actually help. “Customer Service” is designed specifically to prevent customer service. Quite amazing, actually. It’s too complicated to be accidental. Premeditated malice lurks behind it, a dark intelligence experimenting on how much suffering it can inflict before provoking outright violence. Everyone has a packaged statement before them to be read rote, consequently no one listens to what the actual problem is. I started saying “Let me speak to your supervisor. Now,” first thing. Surprising how that moves things along. The Indian gentlemen were kind, and probably genuinely sorry they didn’t know what the hell they were talking about.
The dusty pink antique rose still blooming after many freezes.
November 23, 2012
Dreams of being on a bus hour led by Steve Lloyd. I was the driver of the immense road machine that had to be maneuvered with great skill. Once I stopped inches from a collision with a bridge. I marveled that I’d never been in a vehicle high as a bridge, and now I was driving one. Steven had to be left off somewhere in order to get to New York (the directions in the dream were very precise). I remembered that I too had to get to New York, for a haircut appointment that was, somehow, very important to me. There was a flash of a barber shop in a sort of cave, that long ago was part of a recurring dream. The bus was full of “special” kids who had to be given time to throw tantrums or make it successfully to the bathroom, and our rest stop seemed unlikely ever to end. No one would listen to me that we had to stop dithering and wasting time and get back to the airport so I could make it to my appointment. One side of the world was a wilderness of trees with pink and scarlet flowers. I said out loud in the dream, "We are not supposed to dream in color."
Friday, November 23, 2012
November 22, 2012
Architectural gardening, much moving of earth. Transplanted holly volunteers to spots where they may prosper. Hacked down and poisoned a lot of brush on Carolyn’s side of the divide, because they were shading my plants, and she wasn’t home, and has proven to have been indifferent to anything going on outside. Pruned. Created a sunken garden where the pond was, planted anemones, mulched with leaves.
Thursday, November 22, 2012
November 21, 2012
Antic disposition yesterday. I hope my students didn’t notice, or were amused by it. Sore left foot, limping and crying out. I think I wore a hole in the bone in New York.
The postcard company phones to say the misprint was their fault and they will reprint the cards and re-ship. I’m surprised by this, expecting it, somehow, to have been my fault–even after checking the paperwork and seeing that the set-up I approved was correct. “Careless typesetting,” they say. So, I dump 1000 cards into the recycle bin. Fewer than that; I must have sent out a hundred before I noticed. Even when I noticed I had to keep looking, and looking, unable to believe my eyes.
Decided to garden today, beginning with the water gardens. I knew two goldfish survived, one in the backyard pond and one in the third of the front ponds. I determined not just to put them in a bucket and haul them to Beaver Lake this time, but keep them with me through the winter. I drove to the Pet Supermarket and bought an aquarium, set it on the red table with a few flat rocks. The fish from the front was big and healthy. The fish from the back was dead, but only recently dead, his eyes blue but his scales still beautiful. I felt bad about that. Had I gotten to this a week, even a day or two earlier, maybe he would have survived. His water was foul and clogged with the detritus of the trees. Whether the foulness was the cause or the effect of his demise I don’t know. But Lawrence–for so I have named the survivor– floats alone in his new pond with all the edges. He’s quite handsome, brilliant orange with tail and tips of all his fins transparent. He prospered all summer without my feeding him once, so rich was the organic mix of the yard. What does he think of the clean water? Would he rather have someplace to hide, rather than all that blazing light and oxygen? So far he looks happy. He isn’t eating yet, but he’s exploring. I feel bad for him, somehow. Because he’s alone? Because I fear he may have loved his dark barrel and will be confused by his new world? The soil where I dumped the rotty mucky water must be the richest in the world.
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
November 20, 2012
Postcards come for The Sun in Splendor. Of course they say, in giant letters on both sides, all 500 of them, The Sun in Slendor. I start to go ballistic, but pull back, decide to let God have his little joke.
Much traffic in my office last evening. Felt at once harried and inadequate. Must be how the president feels.
Cat vomit hidden under papers.
Monday, November 19, 2012
November 19, 2012
Most intricate, extended, complicated dreams, some of them so close to my waking life at one time or another that they seem almost a deliberate corrective to it. They are a refuge, a sought-whenever-possible alternative life. I’m developing the idea that the human mind created dreams in order to have a realm not governed by God, one that He did not make and cannot enter. His order is gone from them, but so is His tyranny.
Good Cantaria rehearsal. Only a few key personalities need to be absent for the whole thing to go right.
Sunday, November 18, 2012
November 18, 2012
Newark airport. It is a rule that all the people who are not using electronic devices will be clustered around the columns of outlets, denying access, but I managed to find this one plug unnoted way in a corner. This has been, so far, the most uneventful travel experience I’ve ever had, and I thank God.
Haunted Columbus Circle for a little while, then went to the Board Meeting for the ABB Foundation. Francine’s dolls and arranged doll families and eclectic books lay under an additional layer of dust. To my surprise, the Foundation decided to keep on going after Arch’s death, doing pretty much what it did before. A further surprise was that when the finances were revealed, another thing revealed was that I have more money than the foundation. This took me a little aback. I’d already decided not to request travel expenses. I continue to be amazed in meetings such as that how serious people think of things–necessary things–that would never cross my mind. Was offered the job of Executive Director, which I turned down largely for that reason.
Went to Mamet’s Glenngarry Glen Ross. The Schoenfeld theater was the first one I ever saw a Broadway show at, when Susan took me to see Amadeus long ago. I’m not sure it had the same name then. Glengarry Glen Ross is a contemporary icon, and certainly the performances, from Al Pacino on across the board, were stellar. It’s almost impossible to imagine better. I got the last ticket in a sold-out house. But is the play itself really that good? The dialogue is magnificent. Mamet has found a perfect medium for reproducing the speech of rats fighting in a hole, and though that is a virtuosity, is it anything beyond that? Do these rats have anything to say, beyond creating a certain understanding of their rattiness? The characters are impossible to like beyond our liking for the actors playing them. The characters have nothing to teach, I think, unless one is in the desperate need for larceny and only fear of being caught would stop one. The play is in every way admirable as a performance, but I’m still searching for the road it could possibly take into the heart or the conscience. It was a fascinating event, in any case, and gives one the chance to watch virtuoso acting. Maybe that’s what it is about– like a basketball game where they don’t keep score, and the only thing that matters is how good everybody looks tossing the ball around.
Saturday, November 17, 2012
November 17, 2012
Gratuitous shopping in the morning, then a trek to the Helmsley to retrieve my cell phone, which was not in the lost and found, but rather in the cushions of the very chair in which I had been sitting, Went to MOMA. I had to check in with Starry Night. There was a great crowd around it, as I suppose should be. The featured celebrity was Munch’s The Scream. Here’s the odd things about that: the original is less attractive than any of its reproductions, It looks like a child’s crayon drawing, Behind it on the wall was, however, a real masterpiece, Munch’s The Storm. The Scream was hard to see because people couldn’t refrain from having their picture taken in front of it, hands over ears, screaming, Impressed by, and confused by, the Quay brothers. Root soup and mimosas in the café at a table of teenagers who were dishing as they do on Gossip Girl, though more wittily. Napped, then walked by night from the Edison to St. Luke in the Fields on Hudson for an evening of new music. I’d gone specifically to hear Jon David’s Stabat Mater, but the entire evening was quite wonderful. Music is beyond the point of aiming to be merely provocative; each of the pieces allowed the ear inside them, provided a key to how they might be read. Exhilarating, actually. I also noticed a gratifying concentration on the word, the music word-driven, the settings of text actual settings of text. I was exhausted afterward. Anxieties about transportation vanished when I got the first taxi I pointed to on Hudson. Water and Reisling at the Glass House (The Rum House packed to the ceiling) and then to bed.
Friday, November 16, 2012
November 16, 2012
Late start, after a night ending, again, at the Rum House, where I met Aaron, who had lived for a while in Cincinnati, who was suave and worldly and had a great plume of brown hair draped across his forehead. He have me a sip of his special black-something bourbon, which tasted as complex as wine, and marked the first time I ever really like neat bourbon. Started at the Paramount, which is being remodeled out of recognition. Shopped a little yesterday morning, then walked up Broadway to SJB’s preferred restaurant on 85th. Browsed the book stalls, scalded myself on tea at a café, where I was also panhandled. Guy came in, scanned the room, came directly to me. His speech impediment made it hard for him to speak. Something seemed genuine in his need, so I gave him money. That whole part of town, the west side above Lincoln Center, is little known to me, and I thought it was lovely, lively, liveable. The meeting was with my director and our music director over The Loves of Mr. Lincoln, It’s thrilling to be talking about it. It was one of those spit-balling, tossing-around-ideas meetings which leave me a little disoriented, because I almost never mention anything about art that is not long considered and would not, if put into action, work. So my filters were engaged, to sift and consider and not take anything as a hidden directive. SJB suggested I change the moment of the play in a way I resisted at the time, but I see how it can work, and he may be right, though NOT doing it that way (very Broadway and Sondheim-y) had been the original aim of my approach. Oh well. All problems are solved by allowing the number of actors I had originally asked for, but–. SJB is not an insistent director, and I am not a stubborn playwright, so all went well. JB, the music guy, probably found the necessary middle ground. Will look hard at everything when I get home. SJB forbade me to have the pastrami, because he the experience of a pastrami sandwich would be disappointing unless I had it at a Jewish deli.
Taxied in the evening to the Helmsley Park South for a reception to honor Raymond Carver and to mark the 50th anniversary of the Syracuse creative writing program. As I feared, I knew no one; none of my contemporaries appeared. Did meet some of the current students, who were charming, and a guy named Poe who had done interesting work in journalism, and who also knew nobody. Donald Dike was, curiously, not mentioned among the writing program luminaries (I thought he had founded it). Neither was I, which is not what I would have expected when I set my back to Syracuse, heading out into the world. Walked back to the hotel noting how Central Park South smells of horses, thinking wry thoughts. Beautiful faces, one after the other.
November 15, 2012
Took in the faces on Times Square, then realized, with all the meetings and pre-arrangements, how little time I have for incidental adventures. Went to see Peter and the Starcatcher, largely because it’s playing out the back door of the hotel. It’s actually sort of a Christmas panto, raucous and amiable, if a little stupid. Great times at the Rum House afterwards. There was a sort of tag-team of piano players, most of them customers, banging out the best whorehouse piano I have ever heard. A Japanese girl dressed as a farmer danced while they played. The men sitting beside me were Norwegians–they smelled wonderful–and we talked a little about the history of Norway. They told me their names, but after a certain intake of rum, unfamiliar things become unintelligible. Had a further drink in one of the hotel bars, staggered up to bed with no specific memory of how I got here. Now my little puzzle of sky above 47th Street is gray silk, just before dawn.
Thursday, November 15, 2012
November 14, 2012
Eleventh floor of the Edison Hotel, the rooms are ragged, but not so tiny as I’m used to here. The flight was without incident, except in the land of dreams, of which there were many. The woman beside me was eating green onion potato chips, and the smell made me sick, so the only option was sleep. The plane approached Manhattan from the cloudless south, so all the majesty of it was laid out before us. The lady at the shuttle bus station sold me a round-trip ticket for the price of one-way. She said, “For you it’s sixteen dollars.” I didn’t realize she meant that until I looked at the receipt later. So, already a passage of fortune . . . .
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
November 14, 2012
Toward NYC. Packed my sad little bag. Considered just taking my laptop and toothbrush and wearing the same thing every day, may a different t-shirt for under the same sweater. I pack for stylishness I never manage to exhibit. Conference with SJB over Lincoln. Couple of meetings. Bought no advanced tickets (except JD’s concert) meaning to prowl the marquees like a kid in a candy shop.
My students were pissed at each other in senior seminar for reasons I couldn’t divine.
The cats jostle for snoozing space under the desk lamp.
Monday, November 12, 2012
November 12, 2012
Dark of Veterans’ Day morning. Overseas opens in LA.
Drove to Carrboro yesterday morning for Night Music. J and D were to come--had asked to come-- but I drove to the appointed place on campus and waited for more than an hour–drove onto the freeway, turned around and came back to give them another chance– until I was afraid I’d miss the reading. This was surprisingly devastating for something that happens all the time. I was puzzled, then I was furious, then I was depressed. If I had the time back I’ve spent waiting on people I’d have two more birthdays than my destiny allows, anyway. If people had the time back they’d spent waiting on me, they’d have time for an extra cup of coffee, maybe. When I was a student, I’d have lingered at the meeting place half an hour ahead to make sure I didn’t inconvenience a professor. To stand one up would be unthinkable. I drove the four hours (just under) in grievous discontent. I might not have made the trip if I’d thought I had to do it alone. With the waiting, I still arrived a few minutes early, and had a vodka at the Second Wind, a sports bar on Main Street in Carrboro, where three different football games played on three different screens. Felt comfortable there. I hadn’t eaten, so the vodka had supreme effect. Google said the arts center is on West Main when in fact it is on East, and the guy into whose parking lot I pulled and who figured this out for me was so proud that I had a play there he hugged me. Downtown Carrboro was lively in the sweet winter light (I’d dressed for the mountains, and kept shedding layers on the flats), reminding me of West Asheville. The Carrborro Arts Center is a former store in a strip mall, but useful and attractive, and apparently well run and full of events. Met the actors and the director. Cheryl B was there with her husband. Cheryl and I never had a conversation in high school, but I certainly knew who she was. It was great of her to come out and see me. Her brother Larry and I had a relationship in junior high, the erotic overtones of which I didn’t recognize or refused to recognize then. He had cancer in high school, got over it, and then succumbed as a young man. I think I made her sad asking about him.
When the reading began, layers of apprehension fell from me. The actors (especially the one playing Jesse) were excellent and dedicated. Beyond that, Night Music is beautiful. Beautiful. I was so happy. It’s not flawless, but what needs to be done is clear and relatively easy to fix. The audience talk-back (there was a big audience for that fine day and that obscure event) confirmed my impressions. It had achieved better than I foresaw, certainly better than I intended. I was happy. Had a mad crush on Jesse, which was, of course, part of the point.
The drive back alone in the dark was grueling. Rock and roll on the radio was my constant companion, driving away the drowsiness. The Prius hit and passed 10000 miles on the steep grade out of Old Fort. No moon, no stars, imagining who inhabited the rushing bodies of light around me.
Sunday, November 11, 2012
November 11, 2012
Spent a few hours at the gallery stroll, left when I had finished painting. Two of the strollers who came in and mused on what my paintings told them about the inside of my head. They were not specific. Jolene pointed out the painting she liked best, which was the one on the wall I hadn’t done.
Real freezes have come, and the towering angels' trumpets are brownish ruins.
In an hour it’s off to Carrboro to hear Night Music.
Saturday, November 10, 2012
November 9, 2012
The pink Christmas cactus is in bloom.
Made a slumgullion of Brussels sprouts, celery, white eggplant (from my garden) banana peppers (from my garden) and kale. Topped with a little soy sauce, it is scrumptious. What prevents us from eating healthy?
The Importance of Being Earnest at UNCA was excellent– is excellent, for I saw it with a sparse crowd on opening night. Jeff and Jake were the perfect Jack and Algernon. Everything was stylish, the university theater doing what it should be doing. I do think, however, that I’ve seen this play often enough to last me for a while. Faculty reading at the Laurel Forum yesterday afternoon. I read a few poems and “In an Alternate Universe. . . “ We all remarked at the absence of our colleagues. I told them to get used to it. Reading at Downtown Books and News in the evening. Part of that was good, part wasn’t. At the end of it I was so supernaturally exhausted that I could barely make it back to the car. When I was parking at the hotel, I chatted with the parking attendant, trying to convince her (successfully) that she should let me park there for free. She was funny, and I thought as I drove to my space that here was someone I liked and would probably never see again.
Waking with the thin crescent of the dying moon lagging in the east. Today is the River District Gallery Stroll. It is by no means certain that I will participate.
Thursday, November 8, 2012
November 8, 2012
Read The Sun in Splendor on Kindle yesterday morning. Great relief. There are formatting problems, especially when I quote poetry, but there are no cringe-worthy sections or running sores of bad prose or catastrophic inconsistencies. The book is good. It will find an audience. About that thread of my life, I am happy. As often happens, I did not recognize me in it. I was discovering the author as I discovered the story. Odd.
Chat with J in Johannesburg. He wants t come home; I want to go there.
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
I wonder if America appreciates the caliber of the bullet it just dodged. We were invited to step back into a time when poverty was thought of as a judgment on the poor and government was intended to prolong the advantages of the advantaged, when government shrugged at the misfortune of its citizen and sealed itself up in mansions and waited for the cries of the miserable to die away. The only thing that should shame us was that it was so close.
November 7, 2012
Spent a while in a bar taking in the election reports, but I realized dread was overcoming me, so I went home, drank alone, watched videos and went to bed. Woke in the morning with some anxiety. Looked on the internet. Glory, glory. Bless Ohio. Bless Virginia. Bless Florida. What the hell is the matter with North Carolina? Anyway, I’m drawing a long, deep breath. Disaster averted. Pick up the banners. Scorn the media for making us more afraid than we needed to be.
Students spent part of class time last night excoriating Alice Fulton for embodying everything that’s wrong with contemporary poetry. It was cleansing.
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
November 6, 2012
Fast day, to give support to the President. That the electorate is capable of terrible mistakes is evident in the recent past. I don’t sense a disaster coming today, but one leaves nothing to chance. Word is that the Romney family owns the ballot machines.
Asked on Facebook why the–to me–conspicuously un-Christlike Romney is considered the “Christian” choice in some quarters. Dear blunt L replies that it’s because Obama is a Muslim and doesn’t give that much to the poor, whereas Romney is a Christian and gives a lot of money to the poor. One shrugs and goes on with one’s day.
How do we recognize irony in, say Hebrew or Sanskrit?
Overseas will be presented in Los Angeles later this month. I asked Danny to go as my spy.
Monday, November 5, 2012
November 5, 2012
Between the time Circe woke me and the time I actually got up, I dreamed that I was starting school again, in a dorm at Johns Hopkins. DJ was my roommate, and we were best friends with some girl I didn’t recognize, and DJ was going on about this mutual friend he was in love with and for some reason I couldn’t believe it, and I had a massage therapist, but I didn’t know where or what my classes were. A kid brought his dog in to play, and I was happy and carefree and irresponsible and had a complicated social life, the way I was not when I really went to college.
If my ears could tell, the Lauridson and the Dove went well. I sang well, anyway. I read poetry with Holly at Malaprop’s just before, and Richard came from that reading. I was happy to see him there; he seemed happy to be there. The reading went well, though I rushed and stumbled. I guess I was worried about getting to church in time. I worry about my poems unless I’m actually reading them. A wall of new tenors, 4 or 5 of them trying to out-diva the other. The effect is really rather thrilling. In two days I’ve been an artist, a plutocrat, a fantasy novelist, a poet, a singer. Today near the end I must be a scholar and teacher, though what comes before is not yet known.
Feeling disengaged. Feeling so obsessed I barely have time for anything else, though what I’m obsessed by is too poorly defined to be approached directly. Not this. . . not that. . . neti. . . neti. .
Sweet C writes from Chicago.
Sunday, November 4, 2012
November 4, 2012
Even with the time change it’s hours before dawn. Cleaned out my e-mail address book. Thought I might write, but did not. Attended the Black Mountain Museum auction last night. I was the highest bidder of the night, on a piece I really liked, one with a snake on it. Couldn’t afford it, and was a little sick to my stomach as I presented my credit card. Bidding fever got me. By my calculation, the bowl I made brought in the second or third-lowest price, as it deserved to, being crude and– this is known only to me–hurried. KK refuses to commit himself on whether my response to his art was acceptable. When I asked he said, “Oh? Did I never respond to that?” which means either he loathed it or hasn’t looked. I plod on either way. Rehearsal for the Lauridson yesterday, performance today. It’s different with organ-–more refined, in a way difficult to explain. Complete. I enjoy singing it, though there is an atmosphere there of defensive singing, whereby the main thing is to escape notice. Headache, and I hadn’t a drop to drink last night. . . after the champagne at the auction . Neither bird nor frog sings in the morning.
Saturday, November 3, 2012
Yesterday, late in the afternoon, I published my first e-book. It’s The Sun in Splendor. I loved the book, and though the few people who read it loved it, or said they did, it never found its market. I pined for it, for the people in it whose stories remained untold. So, I got on Amazon, read the directions, and did the deed. My scruples were probably unnecessary– I tell my students that e-publishing is the wave of the future and not to be afraid of it–but scruples they were. I grew up when I did, with the dreams I had, in which there was nothing like the thrill of holding your own book in your hands. I thought for two or three years before I did. When the deed was done, when I’d pressed the button “publish,” a thrill of relief went through me. It’s as though I’d been sick a long time and finally took the pill to cure me. The kindle people warn that it won’t appear for 24 hours, so I wait, resigned to being, probably, my own first customer.
Friday, November 2, 2012
November 2, 2012
People on the roof yesterday. They found a hole hidden under a tile, which, I hope, explains the all but immortal leakage. Took the red leakage bucket away. I am a man of faith.
Cold. I realized how cold it was at the Y when I noticed myself taking off layer after layer in order to put on my work-out clothes, which were themselves almost too chilly to endure. I still have garments left over from Syracuse, and so am prepared for the cold if I think of it in time.
My poor dear New York. It’s hard to imagine such a citadel of civilization being vulnerable to a mere hurricane, but the photos and news reports tell it all. Selfishly, I hope it’s all wiped clean by the time I get there next week.
Night Music splendidly advertised by the Art Center in Carrboro.
Poor Frank is fighting with the landlord over the blinds I bought for the windows of the Apothecary. The landlord isn’t even committed to his position, but fears criticism from his Board that he allowed something to separate that precious space (heretofore empty and unused) from the life of a neighborhood which no longer, with any substance, exists. They’re blinds, which open and close, not walls, I want to say. It’s good that sweet calm Frank is fighting the battle rather than myself, for I would long ago have laughed in their faces, not because their concern is misplaced, but because the particular application of this concern is ludicrous. The great enemy of non-profits is their Boards. I would have installed the blinds without asking, knowing it was both best and inconsequential, allowing the storm to hit, waver, blow over without delaying me, but Frank is not nearly so far down the road of Macheavellian cynicism as I.
Realization that when I am involved in controversy, it is usually over statements I have not made and opinions I do not hold. Generally I have been as clear as I possibly can be. I blame the tendency now to feel that an instant emotional reaction is equal to a considered analysis. Blasted as a bigot in Facebook for saying that, sometimes, Christian proselytizers mean well. On those almost infinitely rare occasions when I find myself in the role of a confessor, I do. You have tried everything and are still miserable. Try this.
White privilege! shriek my students at some passage of society which displeases them. They are invariably white. And privileged. Someone has taught them there are certain points at which analysis might stop and hysterical sloganeering begin.
Dark. I’m going to assume it’s a beautiful day. When dawn comes–I’ll probably be at the Y– I’ll come out into it and gasp with wonder. Maybe I’ll be looking at the red tree in the Starbucks parking lot which so warms my remembrance.
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
October 30, 2012
Snow on the ground, deep-voiced wind in the air. Bruce H swims to his car on Manhattan, which is underwater and a total loss.
We had our Highlands Fair in Humanities last night, where the students brought food or games or mechanical devices from the 19th century and told their stories. It was delightful. Makes me think that more time should be spent on the history of everyday things, when we know it. In the middle of one young woman’s presentation I thought of those sewing patterns my mother used to make clothes, the flimsy brown paper you attached with straight pins. They had to have started sometime, for some reason. One young man had built a bike out of spare parts, and told us the history of bikes, which seemed to have been more trouble than they were worth through much of their history.
Shocking polls have Romney pulling ahead, if slightly. I never worried about this election, much, because Romney’s status as a liar and plutocrat and cynical opportunist (or at least the public face of a cadre of cynical opportunists) was so clear. Pundits credit the debates for a rise in that man’s popularity, which is astonishing because most of what he had to say was simply made up. Maybe America is flattered when someone cares enough to lie to it. On the simple daily level, he will be a worse president than Bush. I can’t imagine such a victory– it’s like the rabbit voting for the fox–but the world is often enough unimaginable.
Four gigantic financial demands all at the same moment. Of course. Two futile, one unnecessary, but one goes through the motions.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to be satisfied with something? I made eggs and bacon in my newly seasoned cast iron skillet. That was satisfying. Sleep was satisfying last night. The sound of the heat kicking through the registers is satisfying. I found this pullover in my closet that’s very comfy. That’s about it for now.
Monday, October 29, 2012
October 29, 2012
Big opossum on the porch this morning, eating the mess the birds leave at the feeders. Moaning wind, roaring and cracking in the distance, the garage light continually on because it thinks the wind is a body passing. Not yet dawn, so if my garden is blasted or intact cannot yet be known. Harvested the last eggplants yesterday. The vine is covered with blossoms, as is a volunteer cherry tomato in the backyard. The pink terrace roses are blooming; this little inclemency won’t bother them.
JB phones from New York to say that the subways and airports and Stock Market are closed, but also that they want to do The Loves of Mr Lincoln as part of GayFest in May. Would that be all right with me? Of course it would. It’s not what I expected, exactly, but on what grounds I was to expect one thing rather than the other is difficult to tell. I haven’t figured out what my producers’ thinking is, or what timetable they’re working, and I can’t ask without a certain petulance coming into my voice–which comes from panic–so I resolve to keep silent and encourage what happens to happen. Any production is better than no production, and I can see great good coming out of it, and the worse coming out of it would be nothing, which is where we started, and no loss at all. So, New York in the spring. That is well. Lincoln is in the air right now. At this moment, the big excitement is meeting the actors who will play the parts. I have always had excellent luck with actors. Almost always.
Prospect of getting the roof fixed after last night’s rains. Bitched my head off on the phone (in my gentle way) but the prospect of anyone on the roof in this storm– Frankenstorm they’re calling it–is even more distressing. But, this is going to be my season for letting happen what happens. No trying to steer the world’s course for a while.
Too much singing yesterday. Hoarse. Croaking at the cats like an old lady
Sunday, October 28, 2012
October 28, 2012
Strange light this morning, I suppose of the city lights under fog. It’s dimly clear as dawn, though dawn is two hours off.
Two students from twenty years ago, Scarlett and Bill, take me to lunch. They are both successes, she a lawyer in Greenville, he a teacher in Rhode Island, father, mother. They are still the kids I remember, with more force and less scatter in their personalities. We reminisce. We catch up. Some of their teachers are gone, some dead. one fired for embezzlement, some endure. Both have staked their claim on wide lives, and both do me the honor of not only setting up the lunch, but crediting me with a role in their lives. I eat too heartily and too spicily, and lose the lunch in the holly thicket north of the Renaissance Hotel. Keep the memories.
Brought the potted plants in, though it has not yet frozen or even frosted. The golden trumpets blare seven feet above the ground. Most of my potted plants were orphaned in the studio by Jason, and I think of him when I water them. Filled the winter bird feeders. Took down the hummingbird feeders. Dug up weeds and planted a quincunx of lilies. I do not have luck with lilies, but we’ll see.
Another thought on the literature which my students recognize and I despise: it is the apotheosis of the nano-second attention span. No two thoughts are tied together, and no bundle of thoughts is ever required to form a story or an argument or a complete observation. They are a heap of stones in the desert: some of them are quite striking, but they never make a pyramid. This is not thought of as a deficit, but as the way things are.
One maple in the parking lot behind Starbucks flames in surpassing reds. I thank it every time I pass.
Friday, October 26, 2012
October 25, 2012
I continue to figure why I find the works chosen for the autobiography class so disappointing. None of them is good; no part of any of them is particularly good (though they’re beautifully bound). Finally I realize that the mediocrity is not accidental. These texts represent the apotheosis of post-modernism, which is to say the theory that there is no “better” or “worse,” but only a community of witness, all perspectives and levels of achievement being essentially equal. My opinion formed in the last five minutes is as good as that of a scholar who has pondered the same question through his life. The most witless poem is valuable if someone values it, and the reasons for the valuation are irrelevant. This includes, of course, the author, whose ineptness or error is validated if he buts avows ineptness and error were his intentions. No one has the courage to say that this is boring and that idiotic, for if one observation passes through the refiner’s fire, so must they all. Art becomes a circle jerk. Politics becomes just what we have seen during this campaign, an orgy of ignorant convictions based on the apparently inalienable right to have ignorant convictions, and the belief that all convictions, ignorant or sublime, are on exact par. My ignorance is as good as your wisdom. My sloppy crap is as good as your elegant, skilled and well-considered prose– even better, for am I not “keeping it real”? To their credit, my class is having these same reservations, if expressed more tentatively. They seem to be astonished that, given the opportunity of free expression, some clearly choose to slur or babble or profane.
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
October 23, 2012
BC says, “You still watch movies on DVD. I love that about you.”
Kipling’s Kim in Humanities. It’s a far better book than I thought it was. I don’t think many in the class actually read it, so my lecture assumed the problem of conveying meaning in a contextual void. But, at least it was meaningful to me, and perhaps I communicated some of that. The book should strike modern readers favorably, as it is about diversity, though it doesn’t hold to modern shibboleths concerning diversity. We think we must admire diversity without judging it, without comparing one thing to another, and when we catch ourselves comparing, the thing least like ourselves must be preferred. This is a tenet of faith rather than a method of cognition. Kim compares merrily, accurately, shamelessly, and therefore his perceptions are sharper and more useful than ours can be. The book is also about choosing. If you choose a straight path, you are no longer free to wander; you have lost part of the potential of your character. If you do not choose the straight path, you lose power and are never anybody in particular at all. I cherished it as a boy without knowing exactly why. I was already on the path–though I didn’t know it–and Kim’s prolonged freedom seemed exhilarating. For a while I wanted with all my heart to be called Kim.
My students point out that I am to do two readings in coming weeks that I had completely forgotten about. Naturally, they conflict with everything else. These same students, in class just today, finally affirmed that obscurity and randomness are not necessarily virtues. I blew in my head the horns of triumph.
Monday, October 22, 2012
October 22, 2012
Woke wrong, neither rested fully nor spent enough still to sleep. I’d gone to bed quite early, so maybe I was trying too hard. Woke to a terrible dream. There had been a long war between me and a monster which took various forms, and I had to overcome it in each form. I ran home to Ohio and was living in my old house, and it came there and took the form of a teddy bear. I had to fight the teddy bear. I almost lost, and was lying in the front seat of a car beside the ruins of it, when I looked over to see it was getting itself back together. A narrator’s voice came on and said, “The thing was getting healthy again before his eyes.” I grabbed the reconstituting teddy bear and slammed it to the garage floor, praying, “O Lord, let this one thing die forever!” Of course I woke trying to figure out what one thing in the light I meant. The list of potentials is too long.
Turbulent Cantaria rehearsal, many things in many directions. RH, a former student from Phillips Exeter, of all improbable things, has joined the group. He was part of my inner circle there. I haven’t had the chance to ask him how he got here. He was Harvard-bound the last I knew, and then was living in New York. The man the boy grew into is very plausible. I could see the one in the other the minute he identified himself.
October 21, 2012
Revised Man in Flight. I don’t know why it entered my head to do so, but doing so induced the realization that it’s one of the pieces ruined by the “development” process. It languished for nine years after the reading in Manhattan, where Ben and his Fat Chance Productions did their level best, but gave exactly the wrong advice, which I–in an impulse of cooperativeness–followed. Readings and productions of my work have taught me much, “development” has been invariably counterproductive.
Blazing, blameless days.
Saturday, October 20, 2012
October 20, 2012
Drinks with B, who had been in DC all these years. Great to catch up, great to hear about a genuinely unique and self-made life. It’s flattering to be with him. He thinks my books are genius and my acting is superb, and he’s smooth enough to make me believe he really thinks that. He prefaces a statement with, “You will agree you’re a bit of an eccentric–“ I always nod when people say that, though I don’t agree, don’t even know what it is they’re talking about, for sure. Is anyone eccentric to himself? It would be exhausting to be forever laying out the logic of your deeds before your audience.
Ran out to take photos of the pendant multitudes of golden angels’ trumpets, fearing that they will be gone before there’s another chance. Much digging and planting yesterday, as well as the digging up of big volunteer wild roses–monstrous stabbers– which were suddenly in the way. Roses blooming. Furnace on when I woke.
As I got out of bed–the second time, after rising at 4 and feeding the cats–I happened to think of the time when I joined the Cub Scouts. We met at the Meade Avenue Church. Our leader was teaching the mass of us how to say the Cub Scout oath, raising his right hand into the sign and saying, “Repeat after me. I, Maynard Johnson–“ All the Cub Scouts raised their hands and said, “I, Maynard Johnson–“ Yes, it was funny. My mother thought it was hilarious. Whenever the subject of Cub Scouting came up she would raise her hand into the Scout sign and say, “I. Maynard Johnson.” But what I happened to think was that, of all the people of the earth, maybe only one now remembers, “I, Maynard Johnson.” Think of the billions of little family jokes and gleeful references that are gone. Maybe there is an angel who remembers them all.
One of those Saturdays when I think of all the things I have to do, and each task seems wonderful, and I wish the day were twice as long as it is.
Thursday, October 18, 2012
October 18, 2012
Most excellent Wednesday passed. Good workout at the Y. Wrote a poem still before dawn at the café. Then much and strenuous gardening, including eating what I assumed was the last of the tomatoes and the pulling up of the spent vines. Planted iris, sage, hyacinth. Bought other things and left them unplanted, because I had been fasting and the gardening (largely the uprooting of stubborn growths and the rearranging of boulders) made me dizzy. Blithely missed an important committee meeting, but the chair assured me nothing much happened but the attempt of the members each to top the others’ hyperbole. Sorry I missed that. Choir afterwards. It’s amazing how that experience can be changed (yea even from good to bad and bad to good) depending on whom you sit beside. As I pass through the house I notice the things I should put in a Goodwill box and be rid of forever.
Here is the odd, encouraging thing. I am impatient with my poems until I read those of others far-famed among us. Then I settle back with secret smile.
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
October 17, 2012
Interesting Tuesday past. It is my longest day. I was at school from 7:30 AM to 8:30 PM. One student was angry because we were wasting time he had paid good money for by straying frivolously off task. I’d never see a display like that. I didn’t know whether to laugh or to rebuke. Whatever this noble generation is learning, it does not include the notion that personal impulse should be curbed or moderated for the sake of the whole. Students in the creative autobiography class spent time holding up for discussion what I would have called, simply, bad poems. The poems’ strategy is to assemble a range of sometimes interesting, sometimes not, more or less random observations, and then to depend on the reader to make sense of them. No two independent interpretations could possibly be alike, and it was fascinating to watch the class discussion make of the pieces what they were not on their own. The students seemed happy with this procedure, and I have to admit it did redeem works that were otherwise not worth their ink. Their skill at making sense out of what did not have sense on its own was remarkable to me, even if it ran counter to my notion that a poem must take a stand, have a perspective, provide wisdom or insight, or at least pleasure, and not merely lie there in a jumble waiting for meaning-hungry souls to put them together in order they couldn’t bother to attain for themselves. I think of a poem as insight to work from rather than a puzzle to be put together. This is not to say that their comments were not often soaringly insightful; it’s just that the poems were not legitimate cause for their insight. We discussed slam poetry, too, without noting that what had just happened in the classroom and slam poetry are directly opposing forces, one seeking to make poetry public and accessible, the other sinking back into unshare-able hermeneutics that would make Eliot blush.
Monday, October 15, 2012
October 15, 2012
Mighty rain outside, a little rain through the ceiling onto the study floor. Gray depression springs from the littlest things. But one considers that the leak is in one of the least obnoxious places it could be. That's the sort of thing they tell you to be thankful for in Sunday School.
One friend is embittered with the world because he speaks his mind and then people are mad at him. What he doesn’t seem to understand is that he speaks his mind always, immediately, reflexively, without concern for appropriateness or effect. He is always the issue. He is always the one whose concerns are being addressed, who stops the course of things to have his say, and if not, his selfhood is being violated in some way, and there's THAT to lament. To some people the concept of private thoughts simply does not exist. That is charming, sometimes.
My Starbucks coffee had grounds in the bottom. Took a big swig near the end and almost puked. Still want to.
The roof I had put on–what?–three summers ago is defective, apparently. The two boys played Jesus music the whole time they were up on the roof. That should have been the giveaway. I overpaid them because they had worked so hard.
Sunday, October 14, 2012
October 14, 2012
People come to my studio while I’m painting. I like this. Sometimes they’re hesitant, sometimes as bold as if entering a store. One group the other day, some from Charlotte, some from New Jersey, stayed a long time and really looked, critiquing, appreciating, figuring out the goofy titles. They thought the paintings were “powerful.” To another yesterday I told the story of Miss Gossen saying in eighth grade that I had better give up the idea of being an artist. She said, “Oh, no, I think you’ve found your vocation.” Others say “Oh, what beautiful light you have in this studio,” and you want the plaster to fall in on their heads. Locked the key in the truck and DJ had to come for me, but before that Jinx tried to jimmy the door open. He was unsuccessful, but it was the longest conversation we’d ever had. I tried to say, “I appreciate the effort” when we were done, but what I said was, “I like you.” One set of words became another by their own volition. Maybe it’s a kind of eu-tourette’s.
Finished a revision of The Riding Funhouse this morning. I didn’t expect this to be the case, but the rectification of various versions was the big effort. It was like digging through the levels of Troy.
Fasted yesterday and then ate birthday cake at J and L’s. I thought I was having a stroke, but then realized it was a sugar rush, a sort of creeping heat that leaves one on the edge of passing out. Didn’t like it. The moment I arrive at a party I begin plotting an exit strategy. I don’t even notice myself doing it.
Saturday, October 13, 2012
October 13, 2012
Yesterday began in almost ludicrous frustration. It seems ludicrous now; then it seemed tragic. Unnecessary phone marathon with Microsoft, bad news in email, etc. Good trip to the Y, though. Printed The Mermaid to show to Tom, but it wasn’t one of his mornings at Starbucks. Stood for a while with the spade in my hand, but did not garden. Drove to the studio but did not paint.
Went out in the evening to celebrate Leland’s birthday. We took the La Zoom bus, which turned out to provide a hilarious and endearing show. Laughed myself out of the gloom. Drinks then at the Sky Bar at the western corner of the Flat Iron Building. The view through approaching night was beautiful, all the towers of the little town– Florence seven hundred years ago–alight, Patton Avenue burning westward like the path of a dragon. Walking back to my car, I took in this very lively and delightful city. I say, as I always say, that I must get out more. Unlike the old days, I recognize practically no one on the street. You can’t eat enough to be able to go into all the interesting new eateries, drink enough to sample all the bars. Ran into MG, who accused me of slurring my words. I’d had one chocolate martini but no food–all day–and that is an interesting high.