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.