Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Reading

May 30, 2012

Leftover image of New York. Beside me at Newsies was a beautiful woman and her two beautiful daughters. She was thin and a little leathery, from tanning, I guess, but stunningly put together and the kind of old woman who broadcasts the message, “I have lost my beauty but I have retained my power.”  Her daughters were very thin too, and had flowing blond hair and exquisite summer dresses. None of them laughed or smiled or changed their expressions throughout the show. I kept looking over where they were watching with expressions of distant sadness on their faces. I had found the women in the fashion magazines, or Gossip Girl, who are all thinness and coolness and beauty, and cannot even crack a smile for fear of courting a line. Either that or they just had a terrific fight and had not made up. Only mom managed a brief smile as she crawled over me to her seat.
Yesterday was the all-day rehearsal and then the reading of The Loves of Mr. Lincoln. The theater was air-conditioned and New York was a blaze of summer heat, so there was something to be grateful for right off. The actors were excellent, several of them even, if you know about these matters, famous.  I was utterly pleased with what they did.  There are points at which I would have done things differently, but whether that would have been better or not someone in the audience would have to say. Sidney and the cast worked very hard, and it is difficult for a playwright not to feel a sort of unpayable gratitude for such earnest effort. My humiliation was the host of typos the cast had to pencil out as they went.
The simple thing to say is that the play is good. I kept waiting for a wince point or a big question mark to stand over my head, but those moments never came. The audience was rapt, enthusiastic, congratulatory, and the words from the producers indicated that it was everything they had hoped, and it was time for the next phase, which they refused to specify, but which I resolved to accept without specification. “This has legs,” Bruce said, though he had also quipped, “Tell everybody to talk fast so we can bring this in in under four hours.” The producers were smiling. The director was dancing around like a big white bear. I stood there and tried to figure everything out. I strained my ears for bits of conversation. I’m getting used to the idea that the playwright is NEVER the most important person in the lobby after a performance. The beautiful actors come first. The men with the money come second. About half the people didn’t know who I was, as intros were neglected at the outset, which suited me fine until I knew it would be a success.
The phenomenon that I have learned to recognize as success is when the piece no longer seems mine. Had I entered the theater without knowing what was playing, I would have sat, watched, thinking, “Hey, this is good. But didn’t I have a play about Lincoln once? Whatever became of that?” It is better than I thought I knew how to write. In most places such things cannot be said. I’ll try to remember to say, “Oh, it went fine. We’re waiting for the next step.” The other phenomenon I have learned to equate with actual achievement is walking up 8th Avenue not exultant, not triumphant, but calm, cool, each footfall saying on the pavement, “It’s all right now.” So it was Tuesday night. So is it now.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

New York 4

May 29, 2012

Met TB at Union Square. We had lunch, chatted about the philosophies, intricacies, eccentricities of the three theater companies he apprentices for. I think there must be a company championing every conceivable vision, rational, wilful, inspired, deadly, idiotic, misbegotten, glorious, humane, misanthropic. . . everything, and a little garage somewhere for them to perform in, and this is well. Some concepts are clearly so astray that you assume they’ll produce crap theater, but this is not necessarily the case. Some concepts are so shapely and beautiful that nothing gets produced at all. Makes me wonder what my concept is. I’ve always shied from “concept,” thinking of it as a box or a hobby horse, or in some cases an excuse, but I must have one, anyway, driving me from within, one more intelligible to someone outside. Sidney could probably tell me what my concept it. I won’t ask.

Saw Newsies, waiting in a line that went around three legs of a block. It is Disney’s version of Les Mis, with everything that the name “Disney” implies. Every gesture, every second was Disneyfied, so as to please most and please most broadly and to please, mostly, thirteen year old girls, and to please without challenging or causing thought. It was Velveeta: you know what they were getting at, but it was pure Product, processed out of every semblance of drama or uncertainty, resembling the real thing it imitates only vaguely. The boys could dance, though. An honest dance review or a vaudeville with that same talent would have been sensational. All the fault lay in the concept, none in the performers.

Watched fire trucks– seven of them, at the next corner west of 46th–blaze away in the street, and the long ladder hoisting firemen onto a roof. I think there was really no fire.

Monday, May 28, 2012

New York 3

May 28, 2012
Memorial Day.

Porgy and Bess on Saturday night was sensational. I’d not seen it before, and have no comparisons to make, but to me it was flawless. People say it is the great American musical, or the great American opera, and whatever skepticism I might have had is vanished. It is. Not only that, it renders the history of musical theater after the 30's a puzzlement, for why did it do what it did, having Porgy to build upon? Carousel, fresh in my mind, looks like a camp skit by comparison. The last criticism I had read about Porgy concerned the ways in which it is offensive to black people. Maybe, but the hundred or so black people in the theater that night did not appear to be offended, but rather uplifted and beside themselves with delight, in ways I probably don’t fully understand. Audra McDonald’s performance was nuanced as a fine diamond.

Watched a mockingbird harassing a great hawk over Central Park. Walked up 5th, where they were filming Walter Mitty, to the Frick, with its modest size and immodestly outstanding collection, including the Bellini Saint Francis that dwells from visit to visit in my mind. Moving down from the Park toward Times Square is one of my favorite walks in the world. Stopped for an iced tea. The boy at the register closed the drawer before rendering my change, and, as the manager was busy, asked if I wouldn’t mind waiting until the next customer opened the drawer. That didn’t seem so bad, except that it turned out the next customer was a 15 year old girl, pretty, but the stupidest person in Manhattan.
“I want a small burger, but only the meat.”
“You want it without the bun?”
“No, you know, only the meat.”
“So, you don’t want the bun?”
She waved her hand in the air to clarify things, and said, “You know, like, only the meat.”
Somewhat after due time I chimed in, “SHE WANTS IT WITHOUT CONDIMENTS OR TOPPINGS. “
Once he knew what she wanted came the paying for it. She handed hm some bills, then poured a hill of change into her palm, moving it around, counting and recounting. I realized after seeing her put some of it aside, and then remix with a sigh of frustration a couple of times that she was not able to count out 47 cents from her treasury. When she finally handed the register boy some change, he had to hand about half of it back to her. The boy gave me my two bucks from the finally opened drawer whispering, “I sincerely apologize.”

The maids reached my room at the wrong time, so I set out for my matinee early, stopping at the Playwrights’ Pub for a drink. With a sweet Irish boy on one side and a girl from Atlanta all enthusiastic over the theater on the other, I put down maybe too much, and then, liking the sensation, stopped at another bar before I reached the theater. There I was, staggering drunk down 8th Avenue in the heat of the day, happy as a boy. My beneficence was well, for I discovered that the Barrow Group Theaters are not where the Barrow Theater was actually putting on the play– that was Barrow Street, wherever the hell that is–and I missed the show. I walked back to 47th, entered a bar, the Rum House, I’d seen in my ramblings, determined to renew my buzz. I had Eric the bartender to myself for most of the time. He told me of his life as a graffiti artist, giving me insights into the aesthetics and courtesies of that interesting group, all the while plying me with different drinks whose alcohol had been replaced by rum, to see how I liked them. I liked them fine. How I got back to my room I don’t know, but I did, and when I woke from my drunken stupor at 8:30, I went back out onto the street. I’ll need to receive my credit card bill before I’m sure exactly where I went, but I was never more than a block from the Paramount, which would make Manhattan necessarily fatal if one ever tried throughly to “do” the town.

It’s Fleet Week, so the streets are thronged with sailors and Marines, which is, of course, charming. The first bar I visited hosted a throng of Marines. One pair was clearly interested in one another, but the rest left each with two girls following behind, and I thought that was well indeed. The bars seemed generally to be manned by burly Brooklyn boys, which is an excellent idea. Chatted with a sailor who plays trombone in the Navy band, who informed me that sailors from ships have to spend their own money (having the ship for room and board) but he had no ship, and was given $70 a day for food. We agreed that the taxpayers money often went for worse things. It was like watching a different version of On the Town on each corner. Returned to the Rum House, where Danny was even friendlier than Eric. I was pretty plastered by then, so the fine edge of his conversation may be lost to me. I do remember him explicating the scenes from Shel Silverstein poems he had tattooed in his arm. Met Rana, an Egyptian girl who grew up in Oklahoma City. She was seriously informative about matters in Egypt. Met a family from Melbourne, Australia, who wrote down the time and place of my play, saying they would come see it. I was gladdened to see father and mother slamming down drinks with son and daughter, something that never happened in my own experience. Danny and Mikey behind the bar entertained us all, and I think I did a little entertaining of my own. Danny gave me a beer, saying it would bring me down from my rum high. If he meant it would prevent a hangover, it seems to have done the job, unless I am right now still a little drunk. I think I probably am. Left the bar and stood on Times Square watching the show until 1:30 or so. The taste in my mouth this morning suggests I had a shish kebab, but I certainly don’t remember ordering it, or eating it. Strewn across the floor are several bits of paper with names and phone numbers on them–one I recognize, Danny’s recommendation to a bar on West Broadway– and a name tag bar with the name Calvin on it. I have tried manfully to recall Calvin. I hope a good time was had by all.

By my accounting, I was drunk 3 different times Sunday. I think I will go slow today.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

New York 2

May 26, 2012

Much wandering, much walking, so there’s a considerable blister on my left foot. Worth it. Lincoln Center, where there was nothing for me to see. Columbus Circle, where there was plenty to see, and for free. The sun was radiant; the shade from Central Park like a painting, the breezes cool. Sat at my favorite table at the usual outdoor café and watched the people and the weaver finches and the joggers and the white clouds scudding across the blue. Arrived at the Museum of Modern Art, to renew old art acquaintance and eat an arugula salad that brought tears to the eyes.

Meeting this afternoon with Sidney about the play, and about the reading. We sucked down iced coffee and talked more about the theater than I have. . . well, maybe since our last conversation. The truth is, the life I live allows me practically no occasion to discuss the things which are closest to my heart. With whom do I discuss theater, or art, or writing, without the constant and almost immediate fear of overstaying my welcome? So Sidney’s flood of theater conversation swept me out to sea, a maybe too-rich banquet after a long fast. I wonder if I situated myself like this deliberately, so as not to dissipate my craft in too much chit-chat? It worked. It backfired. It went altogether too far. I am no longer able to talk about what I can do as well as anybody on earth. S has a theory of creative process that is quite useful. He says that some people are promoters, who love an idea and go with it hard, and then maybe get worn out before the finish line. There are the analyzers, who proceed by finding the least thing that can go wrong and then obsessing about that. They move forward by assuring themselves they have foreseen and foresolved every problem. Sidney confesses to be one of those, which explains our interchanges, during which he, sometimes, imagines problems where none yet exists. He didn’t get to the other classifications, but I must be in one of them, because I’m neither a promoter or an analyzer. I assume everything in a good idea is good and bulldoze forward until there’s an actual, or practical, problem, fixing those as they arise, not regarding those which do not arise, until they do.

I was epically wrong about the attitude of my producers toward my work. According to S, they have been promoting and working on our projects–including Edward-- the whole time. I didn’t know because they didn’t communicate, but S figures it was my business to ask as well as theirs to tell, and he is right. He laughed when I mentioned the two year option they had on Lincoln. “Two years is NOTHING. It takes five years and more to make anything happen around here.” There’s a year or so of unnecessary despair accounted for.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

New York 1

May 25, 2012

Nineteenth floor of the Paramount Hotel, looking out over rooftops, against the sides of soaring giants, and out onto a space of 8th Avenue. I am glad to have a view of whatever kind. The windows open to the roar from the street, which I find comforting rather than otherwise. Helped a young German couple make their way from Newark. They stopped me and said, "We want to go to the Island of Manhattan." Sweet. Turns out they didn’t want that at all, but rather to get to their hotel in Long Island City, which Google had suggested to them was the same place as Manhattan. Few mishaps arriving. We were warned of a delay which turned out to be five or ten minutes.

Midnight. Went to the Irish Rep on 22nd to see an excellent reading of Shaw’s Man and Superman. On the advice of the ticket lady I had drinks on the sidewalk in front of Baresco’s around the corner on 7th Avenue. Sat drinking prosecco in the clear evening light while tout le monde passed by. I knew two of the actors in the play, which was nice, but also a little creepy. The production was impeccable; the play, however, lingers in disturbing ways. I wanted to say simply that Shaw is altogether too clever, but that scarcely covers the issue. There is not a moment in which the playwright is not showing off. Not one character is actually a character, but all aspects of a single, many-faceted, yet still oddly dogmatic, personality. Shaw is pleased with his ability to argue both sides of a question, and-- like Socrates-- thinks it a triumph to bring a discourse to an unresolvable dead end, which proves his wit but does nothing to further the cause of understanding. The play’s argument is precious when it is not specious, and slips so successfully from every firm place that there is no way to take it to task, no way to correct it, and the attempt to do so makes one seem a fuddy-duddly not fully in on the fun. Shaw’s fountainhead is Wilde. He has less soul than Wilde, and his cleverness illuminates primarily itself. George Bernard Shaw is the smartest person who ever lived who had really no idea of how the world works.

Come-on from the whores on 7th Avenue as I strode home. The Paul Simon tune was in my head.
Noise on the street. I was not ready to come home, slamming down vodka tonics to resign myself to bed.

Friday, May 25, 2012

May 24, 2012

Weather-wise, a perfect day.  Ended with a drive to Reynolds High to see Carousel, the commencement of a feast of theater that continues tomorrow in New York. The female leads were outstanding. The people I will see again and may have to talk with about the show were outstanding, so there’s safety. I enjoyed the production thoroughly, but also noticed that the piece itself is of its time, and in it the classic machinery of the American Musical clanks on transparently. Pretty tunes. Girls at that age are always more convincing as adults than boys. At leaving, a thin red crescent of moon hung in the west.

Most dilemmas in a musical can be solved by taking the silly boy or the silly girl aside, tossing cold water in their face and screaming “wake up!” But then, where would be the show?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

May 23, 2012

Kreuzer Sonata on the radio. Karen and I looked at two houses, one of which has a frog pond, with tadpoles being guarded by mama frog. That’s the story I tell, anyway. Conversation gets an outstanding review from the Durango Herald. Sidney announces the full cast for Lincoln. It will be a night of Googling.  My Josh Speed, James Lloyd Reynolds, and my Lincoln, Robert Cucciolli, seem to be renowned.

Jolene found a roll of exposed film in the piano. I developed it, and it’s 10 or 12 years old, photos of the lawn when I had just begun my garden, photos of Urthona’s big show at the Candle Station, which rocked a little corner of the world.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

May 22, 2012

Ripped out of the ivy/creeper jungle a new garden plot yesterday, revealing stumps that had been coated in ivy since I moved here, planting tansy, blue geranium, ice plant, and more red cabbage than I can ever use. It rained heavily, providentially then. Kevin the frog perched on the rim of his pond through the whole of the rain, rejoicing. Wrenched my shoulder again trying to yank the cork out of a bottle of cava. Bought a dresser and a huge chest today, and the arm seemed, oddly, partially healed again by the effort of helping the shop owner haul the furniture from his truck to my house. He said my kitchen looked just like his. I had to stare at my kitchen for a while, wondering if he could possibly mean that. In the midst of the dresser-haul I was certain my pants were going to fall down. They did not.

Monday, May 21, 2012

May 20, 2012

Quiet evening. The bluebird has brought his baby–or perhaps it is his mate, though I don’t think there is that much dimorphism among bluebirds–to the wire over the birdbath.

Rose early and wrote at the newly remodeled Edna Café. I sat outside, where the sky is remodeled every hour. I wrote a poem I did not remember until this instant, so much had intervened between then and now. I drove up the Parkway, thinking to hike. As I drove, a young black bear strode out onto the road in front of me. He paused, but seeing cars coming from both directions, loped on. He was indeed very black. Parked at the Beaver Dam Gap overlook and headed up, and south. The May forest was green, luminous, shiny, beautiful. I named, as I always do, the plants and creatures I saw around me, as though they would vanish if someone did not call their names every now and then. The eyed click beetle is a whole lot bigger than one expects. I stopped to write, leaning against a bare outcrop of rock, and a vulture soared at eye level, though she was a hundred feet above the valley she scoured. I realized that I had picked up a number of ticks as I sat, and the rest of the journey was a little rushed because of those loathsome creatures, and my desire to get back to the car and give myself a thorough inspection. Coming down I ran into a man coming up. He was dressed more for the golf course than a walk in the woods. Jack was his name, and he was from Malibu. He is some sort of tycoon there, and had just sold a property for 21 million dollars. He said I would know the location, because there is a big rock there in the surf and it’s in all the movies. George Clooney and Will Smith and others had looked at it, but decided that it wasn’t private enough.  Anthony Hopkins lives next door. Jack was a little obsessed with poison ivy, so I showed him what it was (the plant he thought was poison ivy is actually wild strawberry). He had left his family in the car while he took his little walk, apparently to get a fee for the “real woods.”

DV was in town, and we had lunch, during which we caught each other up on our lives. It went a good deal deeper than that, and in the end we were witnessing to one another in a way seldom allowed by time and casual era we inhabit. He was looking sensationally handsome. With David and Wiley, it was a great weekend for beloved former students. The suggestion that one has done well as a teacher calms the heart more than almost anything else.

Came home to listen to the messages on my land line, and discovered that my story “The First Full Night of Winter” had one the short story prize from Writecorner Press ($1100) and that Conversation Involving Doppler the Cat won the Durango Art Center Play Festival Prize ($500) and will enjoy a full production there in September. I had to listen carefully to the fiction people, because–due to my idiotic record-keeping– I had no idea who they were nor what story they were talking about. You listen enough, and most things come clear without your having to admit to your own obliviousness.

Sidney leaves a phone message suggesting cuts to Lincoln. I realize I don’t know him well enough to know whether the suggestions are just throwing ideas around, spitballing, or that he has long and deeply considered, and come to a conclusion. I say just that on email and wait for a response. It’s clear that if the New York theater thing progresses much farther, part of my life, anyway, will have to migrate to New York. A bigger part than now.

Outside it is the deepest silver-green it can be before turning to the blue of night. My elderberries are in bloom.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

May 19, 2012

Day began with hauling stuff out of R’s house for the Cantaria yard sale. The junkiness of most of the junk did not stop avid buyers, and I loved talking with the people who came to sort through and pull out a treasure. The towhees in the trees roundabout kept questioning “What? What?” There was no way to explain.

Afternoon introducing Wiley at his Malaprop’s reading. He was funny and direct and whip-smart and charming. I stopped trying to analyze my emotions toward him: was I dad, a brother, a mentor? Whoever I was gloried in watching this young man ablaze in the upward curve of his arc. I am still smiling.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

May 18, 2012

Cantaria concert last night the best in years. I was worried about my solo, but when I realized I was enjoying it, I knew it was all right, and audience reaction suggested it was.

Bluebirds perch on the wire above the frog ponds, like Ariel hovering over Caliban.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

May 17, 2012

At loose ends yesterday, angry at all those (remarkably abundant) things which seemed a cross or a frustration. Walked a little on the Mountains to the Sea trail, enough to be ravished by the May forest. Planted paw paws. Persimmons were on my mind, but when I realized I had my wild fruits confused, I went ahead with the paw paws. Persimmons grew in the forests of my childhood, with trunks like the gray tile of a bathroom floor. You ate them off the tree after the first frost.

At Caleb’s repeated urging, I went to the open mic at the Vanuatu bar on Eagle Street. People always say “Vanutau” and “the kava bar,” and I thought one was a nickname for the other, but kava turns out to be a beverage made from the roots of a Polynesian plant. It tastes like dirt, but has precisely the mellowing effect people say it has. Remarkable, actually. At the open mic I recited poems in the High Parnassian mode– which was wrong for the moment, but what I do. The crowd was very young, mostly, about half black, and it was clear there was a sort of house style, in which most of the following acts participated. One girl was, of course, black and angry. One wild-haired boy had a lovely voice and a sweet manner and sang intricate, intoxicating songs about social harmony, and in the midst of his act, a wonderful thing happened. Another boy began to sing with him, in lovely high counterpoint, and a white boy in dreads began to beat an African drum in sophisticated rhythms, perfectly, without having heard the song before. A man named Kevin Evans (I remember because of the rhyme) went and got random papers from his car, on which were written in long hand really wonderful poems. A guy almost as old as I (he looked ten years older) played some old folk songs, and we discovered that we both grew up in Ohio (he in Hudson) and then the kid with the drum revealed he and his friends were also Buckeyes. My car was parked far down on Market Street, at is very end, and walking there in the urban dark I kept thinking of Cat People and expecting a panther to leap out from the dark. No panthers. Everything else, though.

Sidney phones that they have chosen a Lincoln, Robert Cuccioli, who got a Tony nomination for Jekyll and Hyde and played Javert in Les Mis. Solid choice. Now invitations can go out for the rest of the cast.

May 15, 2012

Constitutional in the dark of the morning, when only the robins were awake, and a figure in the bus gazebo, who had probably spent the night there. Reading at Posana’s last night. I was happy and glib, and I think gave a good show to the small but surprising audience. Drinks afterward with the K’s at Sazerac. They told me about their Ireland trip, and when they got to the Crane in Galway, I was devoured with homesickness, having lived for months across the street, listening to the last set as I lay down to sleep.

AJ said I must name the frog, so I have named him Kevin. Kevin vocalizes before dawn and just after sunset, not very much, I suppose, because nobody answers. He throbs like a big teenager whose voice is just changing.

Jeff says our Easter broadcast was the station’s highest rated program ever.

Monday, May 14, 2012

May 13, 2012

Long, drenching rain, a little gloomy unless one is a plant.

A man named Shane clearly had my cell phone number before I did. He still gets more calls than I do. I’ve convinced the bill collectors that it is no longer his number, but his family hangs on, one very old woman, maybe grandma, in particular, who sounds like she is ready to burst into tears when she says, “Is this Shane?,” and then flintily disappointed to be told it is, again, not.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

May 11, 2012

Hauled two truckloads of stuff out for the Cantaria yard sale. The garage is usable again, navigable. Nothing is a greater burden that what you once desired.

After the long, good day, I sat on the back terrace reading Wiley’s book. To this day I can’t think of reading as “doing something.” It feels like a leisure activity, something to be sandwiched in between tasks. It’s a strange attitude for an academic, but it comes from a childhood spent reading, hoarding moments in which to do it, secret and ecstatic, all the while fending off criticism that it wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing, that it really wasn’t doing anything at all. It was selfish. I was a kind of escape. It took me out of the group. It was lazy. It kept me from being “all boy.” So I read, my mind flying hither and thither like the feelers of an insect, wondering if I were letting something “real” go undone. It was a guilty pleasure.

As I read I absorbed the environment round about: the wall of white anemone roughened by the eruption of copper and emerald ferns, the subtle flutter of the million leaves, the birds calling and, as my stillness continued, becoming more and more intimate above and around me with their swift little lives, the expiring iris and peony, the sounds of cooking from DJ’s kitchen, the waves of perfume coming from somewhere– peony? Iris? Wild rose? It was ravishing. I have made for myself a kind of paradise, in a green evening in a green summer in the middle of all time. I have expressed my heart in landscape even as I have in poems, and it is beautiful to me. But as I took in this wedge of Eden, I realized something else at the same instant I realized its beauty. It is not for me. It awaits someone else. You have made us, and we are grateful, but we are not for you. The beflowered evening awaits another, and only then will it open fully, knowing to whom it belongs. Though I am sometimes the one who does, I am not the one it is done for. Never was. I think I wanted this, prayed for it back before I knew what all the implications were. It seemed angelic to create and move on and let another dwell in the creation, to be like a wild god indifferent to the outcome of one's labors. And if one is, in fact, an angelic being, it may work fine. I have never fully belonged even in worlds I created myself.  Even they await the approaching beloved, who is not me This is the central fact of my existence. So the wall of white anemones reminded me. So the evening twitter of the birds proclaimed. I close the book thinking this is not the revelation I expected to come out of an evening in the garden.

Two things fall like bolts of fire from heaven: enlightenment and comfort. In my life it has always been enlightenment. This is good, of course, but I would like to try the other next time around.

Joey McGillivray facebooks from Cambridge that he won’t be at the County Arms when I return this summer. Sweet gesture! I don’t mention that I’m not returning, though in my thoughts right now that corner of the world as clear as if I were standing there.

Discover HULU to give me memories back: the old Robin Hood with Richard Greene, Adam-12. Chloris Leachman way before her fame. Who knows what else before the night is gone? Un-looked-for advances in technology have served to preserve and return what I thought was lost. Listen to old songs on the computer, asking myself, "why was it, now, that you loved this?"

Friday, May 11, 2012

May 10, 2012

Good painting.

Followed some real estate leads, one to a beautiful stretch of land along the French Broad near Marshall, where Flynn Branch strikes the water just beyond the falls. The idea of owning land fills me with joy sometimes, seems remote and exhausting at others. I am casting to the left and to the right or the next thing to do with my life.

Many dreams through the night, nearly all of them of travel.

May 9, 2012

North Carolina passes Amendment 1, which criminalizes the relationships of half the people in the state. Now let’s watch the shenanigans it employs to make sure it applies only to gay people.  Why does stupidity always win the first battle? If Civil Rights had been put to a vote in the 60's, the result would have been identical.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May 8, 2012

Sinking into a delicious summer routine, productive, energized, never exhausted, almost never assailed by the bad stomach, soothed by essays into the garden and a little paintings and hours without panic over how to get everything done. Stopped in a furniture store, where the salesman needed a course in how to read body language, as I was so feverish to be rid of him and have time to look on my own that I was all but spitting nails. I suppose good salesmanship is not being able to read your customer so much as not caring about reading your customer, just keeping up the sell. Came home and continued the emptying of my house by getting rid of two ghastly, colossal end tables and a shelf full of random vases.

Watched I Could Go on Singing, which advertizes itself as Judy Garland’s last movie. She’s good; she’s really good. She stands up to Dirk Bogarde. It’s a fine film; why had I never heard of it? Tried to watch All the Rage, a gay film, which was gawdawful. I tried to figure out the particulars of its gawdawfulness. For one thing, everything was said through five layers of irony. Boring irony. Every line was delivered by men pretending they were women.. .  not women exactly, but females, bitchy, gossipy, campy, detached. Nobody wanted anything enough to have a chance of getting it. It embodied my objections to gay theater, the idea that simply being gay is sufficient either for life or art. Simply being gay was heroic for, maybe, five years, thirty years ago.

The lupine is purple and five feet tall. I looked at the garden the first thing this morning without my glasses, and it was magical, a smear of colors fluttered over by butterflies.

May 7, 2012

Went back to the gym for the first time full-force after my shoulder injury. Spent the morning boiling with endorphins.  Did a little painting, but was driven out of the studio by C yammering to some customers who wanted her to decorate a wedding. It’s not what she says, but the tone. . . piercing. . .  repetitive. . .  over-enunciated.. . .like a precocious ninth grader. . .  trivial. . . . devoutly and profoundly trivial. .  “did you want the green-green or maybe a less greeny-green. . . can you stand a little purple as an accent? Not a purple purple, you know. . . but purplish. . . ” . . .   I don’t know. . . no way I describe it makes it sound bad enough. . . . or bad at all, now that I look over what I’ve written.

Monday, May 7, 2012

May 6, 2012

Fair day looking like it might end in rain. Sang too much, church to begin, Cantaria to end, and the Bach Easter Oratorio at St Matthias in the middle. The Bach wasn’t as awful as one might have expected. The soprano soloist and the oboe soloist were magnificent. Only the tenor soloist and the trumpets actually sounded like the strangulation of cats.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

May 5, 2012

The world is chirping itself awake.

Took Marco to the theater last night. He had to leave at the interval, to make a delivery. I’d like to have said, “You know, we have never had time together which was as long as I expected, or from which I departed first,” but it would cause him anxiety without changing anything. Two seats away, though, was a gentleman whose name I seem to have forgotten, an Irishman long ago transplanted, a former high school soccer coach, a sports fanatic who decided to expand his horizons into theater. We chatted at the interval, then spent the remains of the evening satisfactorily.

Came home and sat in the remarkable moonlight flooding the trees and the understory. You could tell colors in the blazing blue light. I sat on my newly transported table, drank gin and tonic and sucked in the radiant night.

Commencement in pouring rain. Students and families sat while the rain came down not in a shower, but in an extended, drenching downpour. Some of them came to get their diplomas shivering with cold. They all kept, though, a lovely spirit.

Fine service for David Nard. I read the passage out of Romans about never being separated from the love of Christ. It contains that glorious, agonizing line, “For the creation awaits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.”  Underwent a kind of conversion during the service, from which I am now spent and exhausted.

Took care of DJ’s fish, and when I came put on the porch, the full moon had risen golden and tremendous. He made a gold roof for himself out of a rack of low flying cloud.  A day begun and ended in moonlight.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

May 4, 2012

My frog was calling from his ponds last night. I was very happy.

Dead mole on the walk this morning. Do moles just keel over and die? If not, what killed it?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

May 2, 2012

In the dark of autumns past I must have contemplated carefully the acquisition of peonies, for I find myself with every kind imaginable. The pale misty yellow tree peonies are spent, but in their place bright lemon ones as big as dinner plates, single pink with their red hearts showing, brilliant single white with a cup of inexhaustible perfume, multiple whites and pinks and reds, crayon pink, snow white, purple of ancient rumpled silk, white sprinkled with red, all warring with the roses to send the most scent into the air.

End of the semester, when one is taxed by one’s students sometimes beyond the wisdom of Solomon. One young man justified his performance by outlining– with fearless specificity– the ways in which his classmates cheated or cut corners or didn’t take the class seriously.  “I know for a fact that she wrote all her assignments sitting there in class . . . oh, NOBODY started that until the night before. . . Oh, she just PRETENDED to take THAT seriously. . . .“ I suggested as gently as I could that there was some disloyalty in his revelations, but he shrugged and suggested back that saving his grade was more important. Clearly failure is not failure if everyone fails. He grudgingly conceded that some did not perform like that, but they were separate and fortunate in ways I did not comprehend. More than in the past there is the chorus of, “But, we did not UNDERSTAND.,” their not understanding being, of course, everyone’s fault but their own. “I know we were told forty times how a ten minute play is not like one-act play, but we didn’t UNDERSTAND.” “I know I was supposed to write thus-and-so about thus-and-so, but I didn’t UNDERSTAND.” Why didn’t you ask if you didn’t understand? The shrug, then, that suffices for all. The mood in the administration, whereby anything is acceptable so long as it manages somehow to humiliate the faculty, makes not understanding, however wilful, grounds for a grade change, so one treads carefully. I wonder if it’s just the humanities that suffer this, or is it more general?. “An ellipse is different from a circle? But I didn’t UNDERSTAND.” “You mean I actually have to speak French in French class? I didn’t UNDERSTAND.” “There’s math in astronomy? But I didn’t UNDERSTAND.”  “You mean, for Geography, I actually have to know where places ARE? I didn’t UNDERSTAND.” Nor is this admission meant as a plea for help, but as an excuse for not having performed, and for not intending to now.  When I was a student we declared all the things that we failed to accomplish “irrelevant.” I think that was, at least, a little bolder than standing there all helpless and whimpering, “but I didn’t UNDERSTAND.” Of course, I have allowed three or four to sweep away the delight of the hundred. Sigh. For the most part, my students are the only people I can stand for very long.

Beethoven up close, thunder in the distance.

May 1, 2012

Thunderstorm away to the east last night. I sat on the porch and watched it moving slowly south. It had those defined, pencil-scribble bolts you remember from childhood, some in pink, some in gold, some in neon white. Whenever they flashed, the white peonies and the white iris and the white roses of York lit up in the garden.

Fantastically intricate dreams, remembered in detail at waking.

A bluebird landed in the garden. Blessed.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

April 30, 2012

Awoke from extended, complicated dreams, all starring Jack Parsons.

Tiny brown ants were trying to set up housekeeping in my mailbox. Thought that leaving the door open all night would get that out of their system. I moved a cement urn and uncovered their citadel, so I have to be patient while they find another.

Free iced chai this morning at the café, for being “a regular.”

The fountain of perfume in the backyard is the volunteer bramble rose, small and white, snow on a tangle of thorn.

Yesterday was a most glorious day. Rose early and went to the studio, and painted well. I went to Jesse Israel’s for plants (maybe the last plants I can fit in this year) and on the way home received a call from Sidney about The Loves of Mr. Lincoln.  He is unhappy that the reading happens right after the Memorial Day weekend. I hadn’t thought of it, but now I’m unhappy about it too. My ignorance of the rules of Equity forces me to ask all sorts of stupid questions, which he answers patiently. Gardened then, had an early afternoon cocktail hour, napped, rose again and had a sweet evening. I don’t recall now exactly what I did, but I have a sensation of both peace and accomplishment.

Afternoon: my riverside storage space is now history. Gone are twenty copies of The Duchess of Malfi from the Black Swan production that never happened. The work table that Sandy Glass’s husband made, which she gave to me when she started to hate him, which I thought was too heavy for me to lift by myself but was not too heavy at all, rests now on the back terrace, awaiting those occasions I always imagine (but which almost never happen) when I’m sitting in my own shade of a summer day writing poetry. The bits and bobs of picture frames which I always imagined I’d find use for are gone. The hugest item is that eleven big boxes of periodicals, copies of all the magazines in which my work appeared, from The Windless Orchard when I was an undergraduate at Hiram forward to the recent but forgotten past, now reside in the Bell Storage dumpsters, awaiting whatever fate comes next. Two cartons of unopened, unsold Blood Rose joined them. I thought there would be a pang, a spasm of repentance, but there was nothing. I was waiting for some university to request my “papers,” but when they do everything now will be much more compact. Tossing the boxes into the dumpster made my achy shoulder feel good.

Took down Rough Beast. Trying to deliver the purchased pieces to their new owners, I was accosted by a woman who asked me to drive her home. I said “yes,” but I was grumpy and resentful, it being one of those hours when things had to go according to the clock or not at all. She was still in her Sunday clothes, because she had been taken to the hospital after church, and had already walked the–what?– at least two miles from Mission. Her home was nearly in Candler, and though I wasn’t watching the odometer, my guess is that her walk uphill and down would have been eight or ten miles, just having done a night in the hospital for an inflamed gall bladder. “The hospital doesn’t give taxi vouchers anymore,” she explained. Of course I was disappointed with myself for being, at the outset, so grudging. Of course all I had to do got done.