Thursday, January 31, 2013

January 31, 2013

Stood in the yard in the cloudburst, trying to dig a channel to keep the rainwater–which was coming like the Columbia down my steps and across the patio– out of my cellar. Now, there’s no evidence that it was going into the cellar, but it’s one of those notions you get, and you don’t check the actual status of the cellar because if you do and it’s as bad as you think it is— maybe I was just releasing pent-up energy. I flushed a mole, and was sorry, for of all the creatures who are bad-off in the deluge, he is the most bad-off. Where could he possibly go? The water was inches deep even on the flats, for a few minutes.  I was willing to scoop him up and protect him, but there was no way I could convince him that was the safer path.

Exhausting Wednesday, waking Thursday not particularly rested but still ready for it. The cleaning ladies come today, and why that is such turmoil I can’t explain. Guests in class yesterday to hear about The Bacchae, a play which I thought I understood until I taught it this time.

I want a cosmic pie to fly into the face of everyone who says there’s no point in making gun regulations because “criminals” won’t obey them. What regulations DO criminals obey? Why have any laws at all? Besides, it is not criminals who do the most shocking harm, but sad teenagers and desperate souls. Sad and desperate have a cure and an end as long as you haven’t shot everybody and yourself first.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

January 30, 2013

Wind high in the before-morning air. A native English speaking student in my creative writing class–who wants to be a writer–reveals she doesn’t know there is a difference between “me and “I,” assuming the “I” is used to start a sentence and as an intensifier. A sentence such as “You must leave I to continue growth as a human being” struck her as perfectly appropriate. “I never had grammar in school,” she said, “the school I transferred from did it late and the one I transferred to did it early.” The other students explained gently to her while I huddled in a corner and wept.

Interviewing of candidates for the two vacant positions. How inexpressibly horrible to be on display like that, especially if departmental interest has turned away from you in the first five minutes, through no fault of your own. I have agreed to so many independent projects and senior theses! Students appear at my door with sheaves in their hands and I have to scramble to remember why. One young lady is comparing Dr. Who to Peter Pan.

Monday, January 28, 2013

January 28, 2013

Discouraging dreams. One was of exerting myself for a friend (it was Tommy the musician, oddly enough) over a long period of time, and then, when things weren’t going fast enough for him, having him enumerate the ways in which I was a bad friend. Both of us were in an acting class, and we went, after the argument, to our acting finals. The performances were in a forest over steeply rolling hills, and on the crest of each hill was an open space for performance, sylvan versions of the Medieval play carts. The actors were strewn down the hills waiting for their parts to begin, and I realized I had not been cast in any of them. The teacher mumbled something about waiting to see who didn’t show up, but I was crushed. I suspected Tommy of sabotaging me, or even worse, didn’t suspect him at all, but rather a more general antipathy. The forest was very beautiful. In the dream I didn’t worry about how anyone could be heard or seen.

The people at All Souls gave me a “God’s Helping Hands Service Recognition Award” during the Annual Meeting. Physically, it’s a rock-green tile with an image of the tower cross on it. It made me glad, over a ground bass of confusion. I was satisfied I was completely invisible there. The achievements cited were, mostly, two decades old, but in any case the level of my surprise would no doubt gratify the givers. DJ got one, and Amy, and Janis, et al.

Paul asks me if I want to be in The Mikado. The immediate answer is “no,” but I want to be doing something.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

January 27, 2013

Watched the moon rise last night. I was lying on the couch, where Sunset Mountain fills my whole window. The moon’s ivory rim appeared behind the trees. It rose two circumferences before it broke free of the trees, rising behind a translucent hill after clearing the opaque one, then sailing clear and round into the sky. It happened that  I was watching a DVD at the same time, which included the rising of the moon. Until I turned the light on to write, my study was slashed by contrasts of moon and shadow.

A spider died on my bathroom floor. When I saw it, it was already being visited by tiny dark ants. I decided to let it lie and let the ants have their way, for they were doing the job nature gave them. Ants surrounded the body, carrying–I suppose--bits of it up the wall to the top of the bathtub, then along the rim of the bathtub to a crack or egress which must be there but which I never found. It must be a tremendous meal, for this has been going on, now for two days and a third night, now ending. A bigger ant would simply have hoisted it up and carried it away. The ant palace must be close to my wall, to keep active through the recent deep cold.

Reading Lord Dunsany’s wonderful book, My Ireland.

Went to the café yesterday intending to write a certain kind of story, and wrote exactly that story. It seldom happens that way. It was little boys out with dad for breakfast, or little boys out with mom for breakfast Saturday, and very beautiful, and my envy was very much mixed with blessing.

My Facebook page shows me a person I don’t entirely recognize. My “friends” are a liberal and anti-Republican lot, which I recognize, and also quite arty, as I am. But they are also bitterly anti-religious, which I suppose on one level I am, but on very many other levels vehemently am not.

Signed out of church today, but there were broad hints that I was going to get some sort of prize– I forget what prizes are given during the Annual Meeting, since I seldom go– and so to gratify both them and me, that’s where I’m off to in four hours.

The spider was alone when I first went into the bathroom and turned on the light. Almost immediately the first ant came, as though they too were waiting for the light.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

January 26, 2013

Classes cancelled yesterday for an ice-storm which, here on this ground, never came to anything. Spent time luxuriating in the warm house and then cleaning up debris in the yard, piling stones into fewer, larger piles, and the like. The heat was good in its time; the chill was good in its time. Went to the café and wrote a play for overlapping voices–or at least I think I did. Will know when I open the notebook in a few minutes. Zach reads two of my recent stories (the ones which won prizes) and gives me excellent and unexpected, and quite persona, critique. I never think my stories are about me, but he saw that these, anyway, are. I actually can’t think of what I did with all that time. The Y closed, so there was no workout. A big check came from a magazine.  Maybe I just took a break. I was thrown off by having slept till it was broad daylight. This dark morning I’m back on schedule.

January 25, 2013

Two odd things this morning. One, I overslept by four hours, losing the time I call my first day in this bifurcated life. Two, classes have been cancelled. The sky glowers, but not a flake has fallen on the land I can see. However, am not going to pretend to indignation. A day off is a day off. Those four hours were taken up by vivid and persistent dreams, with a theme, I thought, but also with an underlying image of water. One I remember pretty well was about living in a beautiful old city on a river. I was associated with the theater there, and the theater too was beautiful, with royal blue interiors. Up river from the city was the lair of monsters, and when the monsters stirred they disturbed the river, and the city flooded in a gentle, rather attractive way, the water just appearing as a sort of crystal medium. People could and did attend the theater with water up to their shoulders. The water must have tilted or something to accommodate the rake of the house, though I think of that now, and it wasn’t in the dream. Water is always blessed in my dreams.

Seeing candidates for positions in the department. I pity them for the gauntlet we put them through. Thank God I went through that only one year.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

January 23, 2013

Woke from one of my rare overtly sexual dreams. Went with a couple of buddies to a sex club, where different themes were developed in different areas. We bought cokes and got naked and all, but the action seemed to be thin and invariably at some distance from where we were, like a zoo where all the animals are way up in the rocks. There as some contact, but it was more about lying around on blankets in cold, modernist architecture. You’d think sex would be better in a dream.

Watching DVDs of the TV show Fame, wondering at its awfulness, recognizing that it awfulness comes from falseness, as much awfulness does. Not one emotion or situation or “valuable life lesson” is genuine, but rather what one was “supposed” to see and feel. If I could bother to obtain the discs, I would show it to my classes as a demonstration of how intention–rigid intention, anyway-- damages creation.

Got my green Holiday Crunch shirt from the Y, my third. All in the t-short drawer is well.

This is the demon keyboard. I can’t type a sentence without 2 or 3 typos, typos which I swear I have not made, but it has. There, whatever I typed, the keyboard rendered it as “typsos.”

Brief quarrel with a magazine about “hard” editing of a story they will publish, and in fact gave a prize to. They’re actually right, but the sense of ambush and futility doesn’t wash away with the mere recognition that things are well. I think the sadness comes when you sense the Muse has misled you, though of course you must blame it on somebody else.

“Ellse” my keyboatd typed. My “keyboatd” typed. I swear it is not me.

JS in Capetown says Amazon is giving The Sun in Splendor away free. I sigh and decide to let it be.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

January 22, 2013

Poisoned by supermarket chicken salad last night, thus a notable session-- at what hour I didn’t look-- over the toilet bowl. Was achy and flu-ish when I rose, but the symptoms have been leaking away, so maybe I dodged that bullet again.

Opened school e-mail after three days to find it jammed and chocked with deadlines and requests and instructions, the only possible response to which is close the window and get on to something else. It is at that point only that I consider retirement. So much coming on so thick can’t be really efficient, and yet I’m not unerring in deleting the incidental and keeping the vital. Deleted or dealt with about half. Will wait for the sun to rise for the rest.

Amazon sends me $20.60 as royalty on the sale of Blood Rose.

The weekend was actually quite excellent. Some work at school that I had to skip church for, missing the annual “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Long, good session at the studio, having discovered how to salvage works that I liked but couldn’t bring to fruition. Pencils, oil pastel, oil, pastels, a multi-media whirlwind. Sat in the café and read Edward Davison, my new fixation. He’s quite good, but also what one would call, with a little smirk, traditional. Yeats was still writing when he began, and Pound, and the great Moderns. Davison advances, but in a different way. He climbs higher on familiar ground. He never fully leaves the Cambridge quadrangles, but Oh! what he finds there! He reminds me of my long crush Millay, though she, though traditional, seems more modern. He focuses observations and expresses complicated feelings with masterful technique. Somehow in the history of poetry, that became insufficient. I’m exploring the whys and whens of that. Also wrote a little, mostly of the crushingly handsome man who sat himself opposite so I could look without appearing very much to look. I wrote a serious sonnet, but also a couple of playful couplets:

“A Spanish prince!” outcried my sudden fever,
and not one of those gruesome Hapsburgs, either.


Forgive my glancing every half a minute,
but my heart has Cupid’s arrow in it.

Opening Cantaria rehearsal not bad, not good–but good enough. Most everybody back.  Drinks afterwards, and a cosmo that tasted like a vodka sno-cone.

Coveting whatever bushes my neighbor across the fence has that cause the towhees to live there.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

January 20, 2013

Conversations with Allison at Milkweed Editions. It turns out that Bird Songs of the Mesozoic is still in print, but A Sense of the Morning is not. Turns out also that I can retrieve the rights to both those books, through a process that will be revealed in a few days.

Excellent day in the studio, except that it had flooded again, in all those torrents of rain. My vigilance had been imperfect, and this time a canvas was ruined. Stopped by the art store for fixative (liked the store clerk immediately), bought a nasty, undrinkable cappuccino next door, went to the studio and painted away. Until Marco called. He needs money, but will not let me give him money. Instead he offers me welded objects and handmade canvases for sale in various sizes, which I suppose will be useful someday. Adam called to have lunch, but I noticed the call too late to do so. He was in town for an important Outdoor Theater audition. Made me wish, to a minimal degree, that I had chosen that life, the life of an actor, and not let it be totally excluded by the life of a writer. Frank borrowed the truck to get materials for an art wall at the Apothecary. He gladdens my heart, though I don’t know yet exactly what I’m doing there. Providing funds, I suppose, which may have been the intention of the gods.

White primrose and hellebore blooming. The hellebore petals seem to have been gnawed by something.

Sat in the café trying to get started on a funny, witty version of Robin Hood for the stage. A little voice whispered, “Why are you wasting time on this crap?”

The longest and most complicated dream. . . .

Saturday, January 19, 2013

January 19, 2013

The longest week in history. Ended it in the department common room hearing old stories of the university as it was. Most of the history seemed to happen just before I came.

Inconsequential near-tiff with a colleague reminds me that my resistance to the optional being presented as the necessary is nearly adamantine.

Conversation with a colleague on the rain-swept sidewalk. He’d been away for a semester on a prestigious residency in a foreign country, doing work that is much admired in his own field. When he returns, his faculty record notes not that, but rather that he has been away from his various committee assignments and local duties, and grades him down. It’s a little like an astronaut’s having his pay docked for spending too much time on the moon. I suppose the university administration doesn’t sense what a deep vein of resentment and frustration it strikes by being at once dysfunctional and imperious. I was listening to the chairman of Chrysler speak on the radio, and he notes that dysfunction begins at the top, and that is generally true in my experience (plays when they go wrong can nearly always blame the director) and specifically true at the place where I have spent twenty nine years observing. Rule from the top presupposes superior insight at the top, which is ludicrous in most cases, surely in ours. We are meant to understand that the administration is not uniform, and that some are on the side of the saints, yet the saints do not prevail. Every person who is not in the administration knows that a university cannot be run like a corporation (a corporation cannot be run like a corporation and have a life expectancy.) Every person who joins the administration seems to forget that, or lets his fire be tamped by the new culture roundabout. The yeoman raised to the aristocracy becomes an aristocrat overnight. “Administration” is a culture and not a job, and like other jobs that become cultures, its self-critical impulse is the first virtue to go. In the talk about the good old days in the common room it was observed that nobody was in charge back then, and that it was better. It was not nostalgia. It was better. Even when I arrived the quality of an idea was counted more than who’d had it; wisdom and common sense would guide one’s actions rather than fear of frowns from the summit. When the locus of authority and the locus of wisdom are not the same, nothing but chaos lies ahead.

Friday, January 18, 2013

January 18, 2013

Empty promise of snow. I sigh to think that, because of the restored streetlight, the progress of the moon will no longer be visible across my yard. This week has been long, and is not yet over. My reaction to the vandal editing was less sharp than it needed to be. I have a fuse too long and slow for my own benefit, sometimes. People need to believe me when I say that the central quality of my public persona is forbearance. Maud in the kitchen making music by whacking around a spent paper towel cylinder.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

January 17, 2013

Here’s what judge and editor Mark Richards wrote of my story “Saturdays He Drove the Ford Pick-up”:

I kept coming back to one story in particular that at first reading wasn’t necessarily the strongest submission in terms of craft or sentence structure.  It certainly wasn’t “spiritual” or “religious” in the way other stories brought in literal churches, youth fellowship meetings, pastors, priests and final rites to their narratives.  

But “Saturdays He Drove the Ford Pick-Up” spoke to me as a parable would, and I’m always inclined toward a parable.  And on subsequent readings, it seemed a bit more layered than I originally thought.  The things I thought originally sentimental about the piece actually gave it ultimate poignancy.  

A woman has a “different” neighbor, a mysterious man who digs in his garden at all hours of the day and night.  He seems harmless enough at first; the only remarkable thing about him is his ability to grow flowers that bloom later than most, even into the first snow.  Then a friend (a failed pastor!) remarks after dinner one night that decomposing bodies provide a special kind of warmth.  A simple, flippant, wine-soaked party-exit wisecrack, but it finds a place in the narrator’s mind like a seed falling onto fertile ground.  Soon the woman is convinced the mysterious neighbor IS burying bodies next door at night.  So of course she calls the police who arrive and destroy the man’s garden in search of what the woman begins to realize will never be found. The police only uncover an old skeleton of a long-dead cat.

Yet for me, it’s all there, in a Christian sense.  A stranger, an “other” person appears whose only apparent crime in the beginning is to bring beauty into the world.  But that’s too much for the Pharisee in us.  There must be something darker, more dangerous, more threatening to this individual than that.  He must be stopped. He must be sacrificed to protect “us.”  Sound familiar?  I won’t belabor the theology, but I think you can read as far into the story as you want to read. I did and I enjoyed the ending, the kind toward which all short stories should strive – surprise and inevitability.

His editing was, as they say, “hard”-- but in the end I am reconciled. Few people other than me would prefer my version to his. But I’m sad. It’s like coming home and finding someone has redecorated your house. It really won’t matter how good it is--

Rains. Most amazing rains.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

January 16, 2013

The semester begins. Have met all my classes at least once. No one has said boo about the one under-enrolled, so I suppose we too roll forward. One kid after Humanities said, “Have you seen The Hobbit?”
“OK, when I walked in I said to myself, ‘I’m being taught by Bilbo Baggins.’”

My schedule is both hellacious and not– which is to say I have to be there all five days (poor me) but on 4 of those days I have but one class. Monday is the pit.

K’s beard looking sexy as hell. He hasn’t a shade of purple in him, so one sighs and thinks of other things.

L installed the blinds in Apothecary at long, long last, and they look both great and subtle, so we can oo and ah and the landlord who didn’t want them might not notice them at all. Meeting last night with the guys who run the place (though I guess I’m one of the guys who run the place) and was impressed again by their knowledge, their vison and collegiality. In almost every other meeting I have to roll my eyes, knowing a better way and thinking it futile to argue the point. Not here. Here simply I don’t know a better way.  They’re all musicians and tech music majors, so when the discussion come around to acoustics, as it almost always does, I’m suddenly in an advanced physics class.  Too-early-to-meeting wine at Pack Tavern, which is enormous.

Woke to a dream of singing in an a capella quartet. We rehearsed in a gymnasium. We had some Renaissance piece before us, where the tenors started a beat before the rest of us. We never got the piece fully rehearsed. The first time I came in too strong on my note. Then the tenor hadn’t been paying attention, then something was wrong with the sopranos. . .. A dream of frustration, of process? What?

Nearly infinite rains.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

January 13, 2013

A bad, vague Saturday turned into a productive, happy one when I went early to the studio and made more progress mastering the pastels. I painted hyenas, whatever that implies. People wandered in while I was working and commented on the light, and I wanted to stab them, and then they wandered out.

Marco delivering a few pieces and measuring the space for a table he’s making for me. I wanted simply to give him the money. The objects are. . . well, I wouldn’t say a burden, exactly. . . .not what I would acquire under normal circumstances.

Read a book on Rupert Brooke and the Neo-Pagans that I got when I was trying to sell our books to Chan Gordon. It did, finally, founder under the weight of the author’s over-selling of his speculations about Brooke’s unexpressed inner psychology. He was like a politician who had certain “talking points” and was always reminding himself to “stay on message.” Psychological analyses of literary figures–or of anyone else, for that matter-- are always wrong because early on psychology got into the habit of supplying simple, summarizing terms for complex patterns. By their very limiting and summarizing nature, these terms are always wrong in application, though helpful when cautiously applied as part of a system of understanding. Once Delany (was it?) got the term “self-divided Puritan” into his teeth he couldn’t let it go. Brooke, of course, was no such thing, though the aspect might have passed through him once or twice, as it does most all of us. I don’t think I’m ever a self-divided Puritan, but it might be in there somewhere. A biography of me would decide I am a– what? I have no idea. The comfort would be that whatever finished that sentence would be wrong.

The streetlight behind DJ’s has been replaced. No more stumbling to the cars in utter and scary darkness, but also no more stargazing in the back alley.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

January 12, 2013

Keep receiving notices of people following me on Twitter, which is intriguing as I have never “tweeted.” Maybe it’s some automatic process.

Accidentally went house hunting yesterday. A series of wrong turns, and the knowledge that it was back on the market, sent me back to the “Hobbit House” on Pine Forest that I almost bought two summers ago. I do have an immediate and almost mystical affinity with the land. Waiting for the realtor, I walked through the forest recognizing, identifying, planning. But this second look convinced me that I pretty much hate the house, and would feel suffocated in it. Looked for another property but couldn’t find it. All the better. I think of the repairs desirable on this house, believing they can’t be made while I’m living in it, and that I should therefore vacate, at least for a while. But the upgrades are necessary only if I want to sell. If I don’t want to sell, they becoming irrelevant, because I really don’t care that much.  I wanted to move because this is in no sense my dream house, but neither is this my dream life, and I’m not sure how much of my dream life would depend on the house I dwelt in. Maybe I want to travel as much as I can for as long as I can, and this is a perfectly adequate place to come back to. When all other things have been in order, I have scarcely noticed where I was dwelling.

Found pictures of this house before I moved in. It looked like a suburban home then. My habitation has always resembled a kind of superior dorm room.

Beautiful pale light on everything in the backyard before I turned on the kitchen light. Moonlight? I didn’t really look.

Put on my ancient Cambridge t-shirt yesterday, noting that it is 42 years old. Wearing it again today, to give it as much life as I can endure.

A parable: A dog is tied up in a yard. A cruel boy comes and hits the dog with a stick. Every time the boy hits the dog, the dog howls and snaps and barks. Everyone is disturbed by this. The boy says, “There can be peace when the dog stops howling.” The dog says, “There can be peace when the boy stops hitting me with the stick.”  The boy hits the dog to make the point that the dog COULD refrain from howling if it were determined enough. The dog howls to make no point at all, but because the boy has hit him with the stick. I don’t know if anyone could say that these two perspectives are actually equal. It could all stop in an instant.

Friday, January 11, 2013

January 11, 2013

Thursday was the bottom of some cycle or other. I know it was the bottom because I feel better today, though the reason for any of it is difficult to say. Things are wrong, but that once said still leaves a mystery. Annihilated because the cleaning people did not come AGAIN–after I stayed away to accommodate them–though of course that was the tip of a sunken Everest. Exhausted by discouragement the way one never is by labor.

Went to school after long absence. Planted the Christmas cactus start (it was flowering over its tiny roots, a sort of coral orange), filled the bird feeder, did my syllabi. My schedule is lousy this semester, all five days, often with one class only in the middle of the day, but last semester’s was exquisite, so one takes the roll of the dice.

Took Marco to the Magnetic Theater for a show of comic sketches about sex. The show was several levels of magnitude better than what one expected– witty, after all, and telling and well done, and not too many plays on the name "Dick"–and Marco, who’d had a worse (or at least more objectively disastrous) day than I chuckled all the way through. His catastrophes are financial and I can help and have in the past helped him through. Mine are emotional, and though he could help to some degree, the offer is never made.

Woke to a very extended and detailed dream. Acres of rolling fields and bits of villages had been covered with canvas or other material, which made a sort of cave or labyrinth in which one could wander for hours in darkness. Fairgrounds were at one end of it, so perhaps it was a kind of carnival attraction, but we always entered somewhere remote, and wandered a while before we could get our bearings. The land obscured is different from the land revealed by day. Not having our bearings was part of the fun. Local artists had workshops or shows in various corners, and there would be remnants of human activity that might have been ordinary in the light, but which looked mysterious and complicated in the dark. I climbed one huge set of stairs, and at the top a big guy had decided to slide down the banister. I told him it was a bad idea in the dark, but he was so eager. He fell and broke his fingers, and ministering women materialized out of the black to help him and– it didn’t seem so ghoulish in the dream–lick the blood away. I was happy in the dark labyrinth, and kept welcoming the next puzzle, the next surprise, the next revelation.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

January 9, 2013

Sat in the Thai Citrus in Weaverville waiting for a lunch I didn’t really want, thinking of methods of suicide. The issue is complicated for me (in addition to being, at the moment, academic) because I fear pain and fear becoming an invalid. People say that drowning is horrific, but how would anyone who has actually drowned know? Hope for a plane crash so nobody blames you? I contemplate the wisdom of buying a gun quickly, in case all the talk of gun control comes, this time, to anything. I think my longtime fall-back of jumping from a high bridge is still in the running, as well as the more recent idea of waiting for a cold day in Fairbanks, getting staggering drunk, and then wading out into the snow. I grumble under my breath at those who have access to the pills that would make the whole thing easier.  How does a layman get those pills? Is it like illegal drugs, that if you ask the right person who knows the right person . . . ? How desperate would I have to be to overcome my really rather remarkable impulse for self-preservation? Then my sweet and sour chicken arrives.

Summoned for jury duty. This happens every half dozen years or so, though I’ve never served. I think I would probably be bad at it, impatient, unable to tamp down my various pre-conceptions.

Addiction to Russian car-crash complications on You Tube, from which one learns that the Russians are the worst drivers in the world, that they all have video cameras on their dash to record their badness, and even they don’t know how to drive on the ice.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

January 8, 2013

Two sessions at the studio yesterday. One at twilight was quite productive. Finally driven away from that by my neighbor’s puppy, abandoned in her locked studio, howling piteously, like a wounded child. I make my visits to the studio too efficient, doing what I meant to do and then taking off. The real work began to happen yesterday after I lingered at an unaccustomed time, taking the different slants of light that come with evening. Perhaps if I made the studio more comfortable, I would take more leisure in it.

Curiously frantic beginning of the year.

The Y is jammed now early in the morning and rather late in the afternoon, when I’ve found myself there. I assume it’s New Year’s resolutions, and the hordes will disappear as quickly as they came. Evenings at the Woodfin Y is overwhelmingly Hispanic.

In a lull in my writing in the café, I picked up two of the local women’s publications they offer to patrons, Verve and Sophia. If I were a Martian and this were my first look at the situation of women on Planet Earth, I’d deduce that women are equally obsessed with recipes (often involving chocolate) and with losing weight, a tragic paradox if ever there was one. I’d detect that half the articles encourage them to be happy with exactly who they are, while the other half (and all the advertisements) suggest make-overs, diets,  plastic surgery, and New Year’s resolutions for the New You. One notes also that any article containing the word “truly” is going to be crap.

Monday, January 7, 2013

January 6, 2013


Watching David Attenborough’s series about Mammals. The section about humans included a sequence of Bushmen hunting down a sable antelope, I think it was. They chose the bull because he was weighed down by his glorious horns, and would tire quicker. They followed in some place by sight and sign, but in other places by sheer empathy. Where would I have gone were I the antelope? As they followed, they danced, their hands making signals in the air, so as to keep silence. But the hand signals went on even when one of them was alone, a man talking silently to himself in the desert with one hand and his spear in the other. Perhaps he was talking to the gods. When he finally reached the antelope, it lay down in the dust of sheer exhaustion, and finishing it off was a gesture. The man then prayed over the beast and performed a ritual of sending in back to the earth. It was carried home, and everybody’s families ate for days. I thought as I watched two things, first that there was a time when being a man was very beautiful. The second was that must be inside us somewhere still, the profound empathy, the sublime and simple gesture.

I do not do what makes me happy. I thought that most recently last night, when I entered the gloomy living room and considered that I could have had one more night with my tree. Then why did I take it down? One more night would have made me happy. One more night would have been right, this being Epiphany only today. There is no answer to the question, other than to say I thought it might be worse later. That is, actually, a very bad reason for doing anything, and I’ve used more often than I should.

After a day away from the Internet, I had 148 new messages on my primary account. Two of those were actually about me, and not a solicitation of some kind.

Woke thinking of Ragnorak, the epic I wrote in Angle-Saxon alliterative verse when I was 15. Where is it now? I can still see it written in a thin brown notebook in the most meticulous hand I could gather to the task.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

January 5, 2013

In 2102 I wrote the plays The Mermaid, Night Music, Thanksgiving, as well as making major re-writes of Sleeping on the Beach, the Kings of the Earth Rise Up. Also short stories that won prizes, which I am too idle to look up just this moment. Many poems. This is not enough, but it is something to bar the door when the beasts are howling outside. That’s exactly the wrong image: to feed the wolves that are howling inside.

Downtown with a load of books from the department. Chan wanted not one of them, though I ended up buying two of his (to show there was no hard feelings) and a fossil trilobite. Downtown is hardly recognizable from the time I had the gallery and was down there every day. Bought cocoa that tasted like a chocolate cloud.

Probably will take the Christmas tree down today. I thought of apologizing to it for having the least Christmas spirit ever. But this has been its first experience with such a thing. Maybe it thinks I’m a happy, starry-eyed kid and that all things were magical for me through the holy season. I’ll let it think that. I’ll let it ride.

Determined to go out last night. But instead sat down and, despite the gin, finished the expansion of Ben and Angela. 

Sleeping heroically.        

Tolkien’s birthday.

Painted in oils today, as the pastels were so cold they wouldn’t adhere to the ground. Only stayed an hour before cold fatigue began to get to me.

Took down the Christmas tree, unsuccessful at fending off the astonishing sadness which come with that task. Cannot even look across the street, to the pile of trees where my tree lies.

Friday, January 4, 2013

January 4, 2013

Very detailed dreams. In one I was Yeats (yes, actually William Butler Yeats) thinking– so the dream alleged–what Yeats would have been thinking. It was actually quite wonderful. In another I was a little black girl in a white dress. There was an adventure of some kind (it involved the working out of a poetic secret code) , but when the little girl began looking rather obsessively for a toilet in the dream, I knew it was time to get up.

Pale brown spider living, apparently, under my keyboard. He seems very calm, watching my fingers fly from three inches away.

Arranged my day around the visitation of the cleaners who, of course, did not come. Snotty note from the owner fussing about my “demeanor” and wondering that I don’t understand that sometimes thing just happen. Told him things do NOT happen to those who plan ahead, and that my demeanor is none of his concern. Learn today whether I have to look for a new cleaning service. He doesn’t know how much entropy works in his favor.

Spider stands ½ an inch from sleeping Circe’s ear. Does he think “that is a cat’s ear?”

Time at the studio yesterday, eventually defeated by the cold and by the ugliness of my project.

Wake up wondering what I should be writing.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

January 3, 2013

Opened my box of dry pastels at the studio, and was instantly entranced. They are immediate, responsive, expressive. I stayed most of the day there, fighting off the cold, play with the new medium. They’ve suggested new things to do with oils, as well, thing which I might have learned long ago if I hadn’t decided, in this, to be such an autodidact.

Bought a number of industrial strength candle holders from Marco, I wanted simply to give him money in his desperation, but he wouldn’t have that.

Cleaning day makes me look around for things to discard, worried that the cleaning ladies might think that I‘m untidy, It would be interesting to know what they do think, being, to some degree, now (I say this with a sigh) the most intimate people in my life.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

January 2, 2013

Long coffee break with Marco. It may well be our longest conversation since we were studio mates. He showed me is artifacts made of steel, using his phone as a photo album, a concept which still surprises me. I forget from time to time what an element of adventurous kid he has in him. If the first day of the year is actually a template for the rest, it will be uneventful, calm, rainy, pleasant enough. Tom and Wind have seized MY Café to do their writing in late in the mornings. I think of it as a usurpation, both of the attention of my oldest friend and of my “local.” A theater in New York is, mildly at this point, interested in The Kings of the Earth Rise Up.

My plecostomus is dead. I thought they were meant to live forever. Sad.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

* 2013 *

January 1, 2013

It will be dark for hours yet, and I think I can write a little and still greet the sunrise. Symbolic or not, I do feel fresh and moderately reborn.

Waiting for an invitation to a New Year’s party didn’t work so well (any more than did trying to have my own last year; still have provisions left over from that).The party I intended to go to was canceled (I suppose K is ill). Instead, J called. It was a surprise, as I’ve seen him fairly recently and I assumed my ration was exhausted. He wanted to come here and I wanted him to, so we had an intimate New Year. He said he was only going to stay a few minutes, but he stayed the night and left moments ago. I told him I rose ungodly early and he needn’t, but I guess an alarm went off inside him. He walked down the dark stairs and out into the dark street, and it was all very cinematic and dramatic until I began wondering “Where the hell did he park?”

For many years my resolutions have been to keep on doing what I’m doing, if possible with greater intensity, until something comes of it. I suppose it’s the same now. What I do propose is to aim a Kantian concentration on each succeeding moment, to judge whether the next action, the next gesture is really in harmony with my spirit. Some things I do, some relationships I have, are, after all, pointless and exhausting. It would be easier to address them moment by moment rather than to try to purge hugely all at once.

I go into the new year with several continuing bewilderments. One is that my determination to be loyal and faithful does not seem to inspire loyalty and good faith in others. This has been an oddly one way street for me, and much puzzling hasn’t clarified the reasons. I could assume I’m missing some glitch in my own character that others see and respond to negatively, or that I read the signs badly, or that my friends are unusually flawed, or that I take too many of my character touchstones from heroic literature. The other choice is just to stop pondering and actively reconcile to it, as one does to a limp or weak eyesight. Some things are just the way they are, and the way to make them worse is to linger over it.  It’s an existential victory, I suppose, to hold to a principle which is not reciprocated by the world.

Affection is another thing entirely. No sane person expects affection to be returned precisely as it is given.


Just returned from a brisk walk east and north, which I often do on the first of the year without its (sadly) turning into a habit. But today it was fine. The streets were dark, a few houses with their Christmas lights on, party hats strewn on the sidewalk outside Avenue M. The air was cool but without bitterness. I went quite fast, and my lungs rejoiced. Edna’s was open, and I stopped for coffee. The rain was considerable when I left the café, but, again, without bitterness. Only then, as I left the café, did a little silver show in the East.