Thursday, October 31, 2013

October 31, 2013

Odd dreams last night. New York today, though things have changed enough, suddenly,  that the original purpose of the journey is moot. Reasons to cancel and reasons to go ahead with it are so balanced that I’ll probably just walk forward like a robot through the plan already conceived. No real energy for the journey, no real energy to go to the expense and effort of cancelling, now. The things I would have done instead are largely out of the picture.  Planning ahead has many advantages (and, on balance, the upper hand) but not doing so makes changes of conditions a whole lot less bothersome. Still, onward.

A few stray irises put into the ground yesterday.

No, New York will be good. A last journey before the winter closes in . . . .

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

October 30, 2013

Savoring a few days at home. Truck gone while the boys dismantle Apothecary and haul it away. Attended the ribbon cutting for the remodeled everything at NC Stage. Looks like real theater, European. Looked for mother’s chair to sit in, but didn’t find it before it began to look peculiar. Drank Riesling at 5 Walnut, ran into Jane and her girlfriend. Jane is ageless and unchanging. Wrote college recommendations for J and D, two of the best students we’ve ever had lighting out on their own at once. I have been laughing out loud. I have reconnected with an old love, my first love, actually, and I laugh all the time. What they say is true: nothing else matters.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

October 29, 2013

No sea-sound in my sleep last night. But there were cats.

Left Big Sur at noon, got home at 5 PM the next day, having gone to my long day of class before coming home. Sleeping in the Delta Sky Lounge and sleeping every second of the plane ride from San Francisco helped. The drive from Big Sur to SF was a psycho-drama, out of which I came, at last, on the sunny side. I’ll enlarge if it lasts.

Talking to R in my office, realizing how much I liked him, the simple candor of his expression, how much I like nearly all my students, who are always half-consciously giving little gifts of themselves.

Dream last night that DJ had the opportunity to sing a new found solo cantata by somebody famous, and I was to keep the manuscripts–or something–but they kept getting infested by these horrible green ticks, and I made it all worse because I ignored them until there were millions of them. We had to go to the origin of the ticks, which was a nasty muddy place which, I recognized in the dream, was at the “deep end” of the creek where I used to play as a kid. There were the bones of somebody who had been murdered (and, I suppose, unavenged), breeding evil ticks.

Flying off again Thursday, I can’t feel completely at home. . . .

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Esalen 2

October 27, 2013

Night. Twenty minutes before my final session. The first two went well, so the fear of being an abject failure is gone.

Day spent staring. Staring at the orange marigolds with the orange monarchs upon them, as though the butterflies drew their color from the flowers on the fly. Staring, ever and ever at the sea. This landscape with without nostalgia for me. It is pure. I have no memories of it, no sadness, no longing; the reception of it is oddly clean, fully fresh, unmarked. Staring most recently at Venus tremendous over the sea, the horizon still a little blood where the sun sank. When I turned on the lights in my room, I thought how some creature far out at sea could see me, know that I was by the light I shed toward the darkening west. And I no longer could see it.

I am sad about something. Leaving? Seeing L again, as I do every few years, remembering that I love him, seeing his beauty and his virtues undiminished? I am sad about something, and there is nothing to be sad about, only light and waves and the perfect stars. I am alone beside the waves and under the perfect stars. Perhaps it is that.

Mist over the sea, no stars, but the high small moon leaking a kind of radiance into the murky dome. The Pacific to one side grumbling and hissing. It is too early for the land to say anything.

4 AM

Three women at my presentation last night. I don’t blame them. I wouldn’t have come, either. The discussion was good. What they needed? Who knows? I think of the long hill path, lined with uncertain lights, threading through darkness to the Murphy House.

I can’t account for my feeling of dull, pervasive dread. I feel many things, but usually not that. It’s as if I had a premonition that Esalen were about to be pitched into the sea. Just as I found it. . .  It would figure. It is possible that the dread is not dread, but sadness, and it is over L. I really do forget him between timeswith  the Sun; the remembrance is both bittersweet and gratuitous. It’s like some failed pretender to the throne remembering the time he was almost acknowledged in the streets.

This beautiful, changeable place. Changeable and immovable at the same time. I am like the elves in Tolkien, disquieted by contact with the sea.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


October 26, 2013

The drive from San Francisco was long, but most of it through the most wonderful scenery I’ve seen that was not in Ireland. At a certain point the extended suburbs transformed into rolling brown hills, the landscape of a cowboy movie, dramatic and, to me, exotic. Then, almost as abruptly, mountain to one side and the sea to the other. The war between ocean and continent left vast and scattered ruins, great cliffs and pinnacles in the midst of the torn sea. I pulled over several times to explore. One time, at Carmel River, there were seals barking far out in the surf. Made an extended stop at Point Lobo, clambering among the stones, taking dramatic shots with my camera, which died in the midst of it. The light was veiled and misty, but brilliant enough to show all things as though minted the moment before. I remembered the joy of the rocky shore, which I have not known for an extended time since I moved from New Hampshire. I stood in the cutting light with the pelicans beating over and the strange flowers of the salt cliffs blooming around. I was exultant. Arrived at Esalen late in the afternoon. Esalen is Rivendell with an ocean. People talk about how magical it is, and that makes one doubtful before one has ever seen, but magical it is. Everything tilts down toward the sea, and the air flutters with monarchs. You think they are falling leaves, but they are living butterflies. I’m already on hugging terms with a lad named Jake, who is from North Carolina. He saw me watching a Stellar’s jay flash his sapphire into the tilted woods, and conversation started from there. They gave me the Cypress Studio, overhung with, yes, cypresses, with the sounding Pacific outside the window. I have to walk through the sensational main garden, all thick vegetables and gold and orange flowers, to get anywhere. It is the best room in the world. The only rivals are the one I had in the B&B that overlooked the Liffey, and the one Nick and I had opening on Dingle Bay. The sea sounds like liquid, and then it sounds like wind, and then it sounds like a kind of music when it withdraws, rattling stone upon stone within itself.

Woke in the dark and crept out on my deck overlooking the sea. The little moon rides very high, just before zenith, I think, but is sufficient to light everything one needs to see: the moon side of the cypresses, the rocks, even the contours of individual waves marching in, at what seems to me wondrous slowness. The ravine beside my cabin is a well of moonlight, in which something is screaming a small but piercing scream. I don’t know the fauna here well enough even to give a guess. The stars are a bright myriad, sealed off near the horizon by what I assume is fog. Astronomy was not an option most of the places I have lived. It would be here.  I honored all by masturbating from my deck as close to the sea as I could get. It was– and as time goes by this becomes less and less frequent– a unique experience. I quizzed myself on the color I was seeing over the sea, and though habit suggested blue, I realized it was not blue at all but the apotheosis of black, deeper here and paler there, ending the continuum at the cold white of the moon, which holds to black by being its opposite. Now as I write in the yellow light of my room, the sky seems deep blue indeed, but perhaps that is the sun coming. It seems to take its time in the west, to come late and hurry along, compensation in the middle by wince-inducing brilliance.

At opening session, Angela had everyone–a hundred people or so– read their short bios. It was one of those moments where you think “Oh, God, no,” but it was eventually over and one did get a better sense of one’s colleagues. We presenters read, announcements were made, and everyone filed out into the night. I read “The Friend beside the Pool” to God knows what reception. The fear that no one will show up for one’s sessions. . . .The female propensity to stop and fuss in doorways even if a hundred people are behind them trying to get out never ceases to amaze.  This goes for one-person-at-a-time bridges as well. I wonder what I do that drives everyone mad. If told, I would try to stop. I really would.

Sea at my left ear, the wondrous dark.

Friday, October 25, 2013

On the Shore Path

Walked out long before daybreak and took the sea path toward town. Instantly I was glad, for there are wetlands there, full of teeming and skittering life, which I could hear if not see. I was swollen with the greatness of the sea and the endless sky. I came back and sat in the Marriot lounge (having bought coffee from Starbucks) and wrote a poem on the backs of advertising menus  for their Thanksgiving buffet, Acquired some bagels and went out again when dawn was finally breaking. The light from the east– which seems to be the end of the long Bay– came pinkish and lavender and goldish and silver, and the gulls were flying amidst it. I fed the bagels to the gulls. On shore were scores of birds, plovers and avocets and sandpipers and Canadas and coots, and beneath a wooden bridge, a pair of egrets and a great white heron. It has been a long time since I was so happy. I sometimes mock Wordsworth’s “Nature was to me then all in all,” but it’s a hypocrisy, for I would say the same myself, nor have I, as he did, left that behind. Writing now in my silly room, the tingle of the sea air still on my cheeks.

San Francisco

October 25, 2013

Red neck boy in the security line in front of me at the Asheville airport. He told the security people, “This is my first time,” to buy patience for not knowing what to do.  I spoke to him on the other side. His accent was the thickest drawl I have ever heard outside of a comedy sketch, but rather than being funny it was poignant and lovely, He said he had not only never been on a plane before but had “scarcely ever been out of Candler.” He was going to Denver to work in the coal fields in some capacity. I wanted to protect him in some way, but, like most things, it was out of my hands.

It’s hard trading the Merrion in Dublin for the Hampton Inn in Burlingame, California. If I had known it was going to be the crappiest hotel on the road I would have stopped somewhere else, but it’s only one night, and the room itself is huge and dignified.  I’ll cross to the splendid Marriot for drinks and pretend I’m staying there. A long path goes between the hotels and the Bay, which I found as if summoned. Away to the north gleams San Francisco. Proud blue collar South San Francisco proclaims itself over the airport, and the great planes seem to be landing on the water. Same-color-as-the-rocks plovers array themselves at pretty much equal distances along the rocky shore. I felt we understood one another. Ate at the Elephant Bar. Drank a tall and girly pina colada. The pina colada was because I got notably lost coming from the airport, and was in San Mateo before I turned around and tried again. Long line at the car rental place; planes had been late and customers were stacked up. I struggled not to lose composure, and succeeded.

I stare at the Pacific murmuring to myself, “The Pacific,” so I realize it wholly.

Bought a biography of Bruce Springsteen at the airport, and midair read about his experience at Esalen, which was presented as a sort of seaside paradise. Maybe I’m more excited than I thought I was. In my hotel room in San Francisco, on Rachel Maddow’s show, I was thrust back into Buncombe County, where our surpassingly ignorant Republican Committee Neanderthal Yelton embarrassed us before all the nation. The world is small indeed.

3 AM San Francisco time. The pitiable little coffee maker is bubbling away in the corner, I have little hope for a good outcome there.

When I signed on to my computer, it was still trying to connect with the wireless internet at the Albany airport.  

Thursday, October 24, 2013

October 24, 2013

Toured the garden yesterday afternoon to see what the losses would be if it froze last night, as it was predicted to do. The worst were the towering angels’ trumpets, with buds a foot long, that will never now open. It is the dark of the morning and I have not inspected, but I fear the worst. I will not quite be gone before the sun rises, so I will have to face it.

Ready to travel. This is an unusually complicated trip, with all sorts of instructions and requirements from the people at the Sun, but having them, I think, taken care of adds a measure of confidence. Invited to JBs’s birthday party north of SF on Sunday. I know it’s unlikely, but I think about it, because I loved him so much and it’s been so many years since we laid eyes on each other, he the red giant next door with the scarlet tangle of hair and the gentleness of a poet. Some poet other than me. He is a memory unsullied.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

October 23, 2013

Not ready for the workshop at Esalen, not eager for the workshop at Esalen, asking myself why I accepted the workshop at Esalen, though I know the answer to that. I wanted to negate my obscurity a little, do the schmoozing and glad handing that other authors do. Now at the brink of it, obscurity seems triply precious, or at least infinitely less inconvenient. The last time I did such a bad job I don’t know why they asked me back. Odd head on me yesterday, wherein if I considered the desired outcome of my longings and the feared outcome of my longings, they both seemed equally dreadful.  Part of my personal superstition is that the 23rd of every month is propitious. May this one be so.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

October 22, 2013

Found myself in seven conversations between the departmental office and my office. It was good, but bewildering. Some chatting energy is abroad in the world.  I have very little chat in me, and always feel that I have left people unfulfilled.

Beautiful clear days followed by a beautiful changeful moon.

Planted the last peony.

Monday, October 21, 2013

October 21, 2013

Man in front of the Candle Station (so-called when I dwelt there) wanted to give me the pitbull puppy that came scampering out to greet me, all legs and eyes and instant affection. Wanted her, but it was impossible.

Church and Cantaria. A morning almost lost to memory because it was four hours of readying and sending manuscripts. Two weeks of bother begin today.

Dream that I was desperate to get to my grandmother’s house on Lowhill Road in Brownsville, PA. Everything would be all right if I could get there. Took a bus in a biggish town, telling the driver that I would keep looking through the windows; I’d know It when I saw it.  The bus was huge, and on it there were many encounters, most of them with some edge of danger averted.  Must have been a rough bus. Never got there.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

October 20, 2013

Tested the furnace, and it works. The comforting banging and hissing.  The simple joys.

Glorious morning at the studio. I was finished before anyone else came, almost. I kept thinking of the people I wanted to give the paintings to as gifts, knowing I won’t because what if they hate them? It’s a burden to give somebody something they hate. Somehow the question, “What if they love them?” never quite balances the equation.

Rather savage dreams. I was being forced to leave my house (not this house) by my neighbor, Zach, who apparently owned everything. I spent my energy damaging and sabotaging things. I wept when I punctured a hole in the garden hose, because I remembered all the flowers I had watered with it. The house had amazing deep foundations, that went down into an underground pool.

Day of writing, before and after the painting. Have worn my Irish Rugby shirt five days now, have no desire to take it off.

I can say to no one, “My life remains entirely unfulfilled,” because when viewed form the outside it doesn’t look that way at all. Oddly, that is an immense comfort. Do we really wish others to see us as we see ourselves? I don’t, except when the issue is good intentions.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

October 19, 2013

Apothecary is officially dead. They boys can get on with their interrupted lives. Not all battles are over, though: Metabolism magazine (which should know better) is carrying an anonymous opinion piece convicting us of gentrification. I haven’t seen it, but one of our number, who does design work for the magazine, has. Our being vanished will steal some of its weak thunder, so in that at least the timing is well. The most questionable academic disciplines (by this I mean, this time, the pseudo-science sociology) are the most eager to put the world in little boxes, especially if those boxes have some kind of temporary social glamour. They are as eager to deliver dogma as any snake handling preacher. There is no such thing as gentrification. There is only change.

Book club discussion of Wiley’s book in the afternoon, then off to see a poet in the evening at All Souls. The poet was good looking and gentle. Gentleness was his only poetic attribute, that I could hear, beside an impressive tolerance for the sound of his own voice.  Holly teaches his books in class, and two men behind me were discussing how he was their favorite poet. It was neither the time nor the place to ask “Why? What am I missing?” People like things they don’t have to think about. I keep forgetting this recurring truth.

Praying that my great angel’s trumpets bloom before the frost.

Friday, October 18, 2013

October 18, 2013

Overslept wondrously, but feel great, so I must have needed it. Late dreams all had to do with painting. Possibly this is because there was a meeting of Eagle Street Playwrights at the house last night, and towering Daniel presented me with a painting he had done of the death mask of Keats. He has been painting for eight days, he and his friend Tad aver, and there is much in the work that is quite sophisticated. It is astonishing to receive a gift. A less welcome gift from loud Jack was the rumor (probably, now that I consider it, the truth) that the Apothecary has been rented out from under us. The boys insisted on a month-to-month lease for our benefit, but we see how those thing can turn. It is a pleasure to watch Tad and Daniel together, their sympathy, their interdependence, their telepathy, the almost comic mismatch of their persons. I found myself loving them. Formerly drunken Daniel has tetotalled for months now, and looks great, even though every time I forget and stupidly offer him a drink. He took grape juice.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

October 17, 2013

Two sessions at the studio yesterday, one in the morning when I worked, one in the afternoon when, it turned out, I regarded my work, even as God did. I was happy.
Neighbors inquire after my studio, it being of a good size and the open studios in the buildings round about having become shops, where you are required to keep regular hours, as though you were a shopkeeper. Russell describes his despair over teaching over drinks at Avenue M last night. He loves teaching, but the burden of inanities passed down from on high prevent anything that could be considered good teaching. I observe, rather loudly, after the second drink, that the problem today is that everything is supervised by people who do not understand the thing they’re supervising: schools are overshadowed by people who are not teachers and who do not understand either teaching or learning; the college is bullied by legislators who have no expertise in anything at all, least of all higher education; studios are bought by retailers; film studios are run by petroleum companies, publishing houses by banks; the most ignorant are given their say and the wisdom of the long-practicing and long-observing is dismissed as ivory tower or self-service. I tell people I could put this right if I were made pharaoh for seven years.

I do realize that people will say that it is this way because the people who don’t know anything about what they’re doing do know something about making money, and making money is the supreme end. I say their financial expertise is not commonly that at all, but salesmanship, in the sense of public relations, or a kind of glamour like a magic act where what is really happening is concealed, and some schlep who was merely lucky, or got out of the way before the collapse, gets the credit. Besides, what does it matter how cheaply a thing is made if it’s a bad job? You can get students through school the way the State wants them, but they come out ignorant, thoughtless, and unprepared, so what was the point? My argument is that making the most money is NOT making the most money, but rather exaggerating the crests and troughs between unreasonable expectation and calamitous consequence.

Surely the last few years will make us trust our legislators and overlords all the more. . . .

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

October 16, 2013

Woke expecting to see a solution to the government shut-down streamed across the Internet. My grasp of history is not complete enough to find another time like this, when so much and so many were held at ransom by so few, and the issue so perverse. That it is a desperate attempt for the privilege to sustain their privilege, for the rich to stay rich, for the righteous agenda of a man “not one of us” to be defeated cannot be disputed even for a second, and probably wouldn’t be even by the perpetrators. That the world be set into a tailspin that I might have my way might have some justification if I’m freeing slaves or ending global warming, but in this case it is to subvert the law of the land, to defeat an election, to have your way even when the voters have rejected you, and it is treason and sedition. How anyone ever again with a brain or a conscience can vote for a Republican I will not understand. Wish I had not thought of this first thing in the morning. It’s not that I disagree, but that I sense there is no actual position to disagree with, that it is an amorphous cloud of opposition spreading itself over any sun that might break through. It is a fight to the death over no principle at all. I am Blake’s ox to wrath mov’d.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

October 15, 2013

Silence almost weird. I say the word “silence” and startle myself, as though it were the only sound in the world.

After a group lecture the humanities, students are given the opportunity to name works of art and literature that have influenced their lives. One of my students, who is failing my class with all flags flying, observes that no work of art or literature has influenced him, but only his meteorology classes. This rings several distant bells, back to a time when the head of the meteorology department (now faded into obscurity) manifested so great a hatred of the liberal arts that he couldn’t open his mouth without slandering them. He held me in particular scorn, and wouldn’t come to Commencement because, for reasons of seniority or alphabet, we typically sat beside each other. The meteorology students have historically resented the humanities and often done poorly at them, shrugging their bad performance off, as my present student does, as the most an onerous task deserves. I wonder what’s said in those classrooms? What kind of culture is manufactured there? What odd perception of the world instills their sense of superiority? Where do people get the energy to live their lives by absurdities? This same student is respectful and engaged and has near-perfect attendance. Another student, whom I rather liked, said at the outset that he resented Humanities and only wanted to take courses in his major, and was often absent, and finally dropped the course, but only after writing the most brilliant paper in the class, which he will probably never know, now. I should have taken a psychology course.

Annihilated by my first day after break.

Monday, October 14, 2013

October 14, 2013

Much revision in the early morning, and the gift of a perfect ending to an almost-ready play. Much singing on the rest of the day. I was in my right mind.

Humbling revelation as I sat over tea that, despite my inner cataclysms, I have never strayed from the path. I have lain down beside it in anger and despair for months at a time, refusing to move, but when that was over, my feet were where they needed to be, and I continued.

RS bought a copy of The Sun in Splendor. Satisfaction improbable to anyone who isn’t me.

The computer restarted itself after an update, and when I got home, there was a sign on the screen saying “incorrect password,” from where Paul, I suppose, had tried to invade again.

Tiny spider on a vast white table where people were supposed to sign up for something in the church lawn. It looked so isolated and vulnerable, but the only thing worse would be if I’d tried to help it.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

October 13, 2013

True to my travel pattern, I’m waking slightly before 3 AM, but also true to the pattern I’m glorying in the hours and hours that gives me even before the sun comes up. The last time of sleep is filled with rich images. In the very last this morning, I had a garden in front of a building at school, and one of the groundskeepers mowed it down. When I confronted him, he said I should have paid the $45 which would have allowed me to do such a thing. He was very tall and had a sort of tiny light in the middle of his chest, and I wondered if I struck that tiny light would it turn him off.

Good day Saturday. I sat in the café writing a little and rereading The Crock of Gold for my class, weeping at places, certainly at the end. Nothing injects a story into your skull like having to teach it. It is the grand antidote to Ulysses. Then I gardened, planting the boxes of bulbs that had come while I was away, including a white heron iris, which was huge and sent in a huge box. Slept a little, then met Adam and his friend Rebecca at Jack of the Wood.  He looks sensational, and has about him the compactness and efficacy of one who will succeed. He cuts the air around him. We ate, went to see the Apothecary, where some kind of incomprehensible seminar was going on, then Rebecca shopped rather fiercely. I am grateful for continued friendship.

While I wrote in the café, before the sun was fully up, I said something to myself. I said, “Now I am in my right mind.” I kept repeating that to myself through the day. I was. At this dark, holy, silent hour, I am.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

October 12, 2013

Woke, by the clock, at exactly the same hour today as yesterday, but it isn’t the same time at all. Bade Dublin farewell, and its empty streets, though my cabbie said that it was lively where the nightclubs were letting out. The French displayed their usual combination of incompetence and hauteur, reinforcing my conviction that Charles de Gaulle airport is the worse place on earth that is neither a slum nor a war zone. There was some sort of work slow-down, and I arrived at the tortoise security line even as my plane was boarding. I was frantic with impatience (it’s surprising how little it takes to turn me into an asshole, in certain circumstances) but the plane was aware of the mess, and we sat for an hour after I finally got on, waiting for stragglers to get through French customs. The security people insisted I was flying on the wrong day, for when they looked at my reservation it said, 10/11/13, and they could not, until they had taken it to some French authority, be convinced that wasn’t November 10. Charlotte was little better. We landed two and a half hours before my final flight, and with customs and another horrendous security line (twelve units, three of them operating), I got to the gate with no time to sit down. But I did get home, as scheduled, in the blessed daylight. Route 26 was jammed blocked dead still, so I got off and tried 25, which was jammed blocked dead still. But I did get home. Ate steak with DJ. Tried not to contemplate the pain in my legs, which, in any case, is gone this morning. The house seemed shabby beside the Merrion. What wouldn’t? Maud had somehow got locked in the closet.

Post-mortem? The best trip to Ireland in a while. I thought I was done with it, but maybe not. I realize there is nothing further I want to buy, and I forced myself to acquire a souvenir. The level of excellence at the Dublin Theater Festival, among the things I saw, was surprisingly low. Only The Critic would I call great, and what was passable was so only because of excellence of performance. Hearing praise of The Hanging Gardens during an intermission of something else, I wondered how much people like things–plays among them–because they think they ought to. Here is a new play by Ireland’s living genius, and of course it should be wonderful. I see that here and in New York as well– we want to like certain things whether or not they turn out to be actually disappointing. It’s not that I even find that bad, just puzzling. What is the principle of selection? Why this mediocre thing and not that mediocre thing? One supposes that excellence will out, but it must be puzzling to the swiftest to see the slower horses wreathed at the end of the race.

Waiting for my last evening of theater, I wandered down to the Liffey where two herons were flying slow and low to the water. One continued down toward the sea. One flew up into the supports of the boardwalk under Bachelor’s Walk, where he would spend the night, I guessed, with human footsteps above and the dark holy river beneath.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Dublin 7

October 11, 2013

It is 3 in the morning in Dublin. I left a wake-up call for 4, which I always do but never need.

Did wander Thomas Street past the Guinness tower, which I believe is farther than I’d gone before. It is rougher, working-class, like Camden Street, which always gives me joy to walk upon. I thought of a title for a book, When I Lived on Camden Street. If only now I could recollect enough to write it. Visited the Town Hall Museum, which I had never done, and which is informative. Dublin City has more public space than it knows how to use, now that the Castle in theirs. The light was clear and wonderful, cutting the sharpest shadows, though most of the day was too cold for me. Sat in Farrington’s and wrote a poem, looking out at St. Winifred’s Well. Remembered the Podder, the Dodder, and the Liffey all on my own. Told the barmaid about them. She’d heard of none but the Liffey. She said, patiently turning to her tasks, “You learn something every day.”

Felt triumphant in getting a ticket to the sold-out Neutral Hero, a much-talked of import from the USA. It was awful to the point that one almost thought it a joke, a test slipped in to see how many would fall for intentionally awful work. Linda has a friend in the cast (I tried to guess which one; I think I did) so I didn’t want to talk to her about it afterwards, and fled out into the anonymity of the Temple Bar at the end. My old Galway friend John Nee was there, and even the hope of talking with him was parried by the horror of staying for the talk-back. People sat on a row of chairs, rose and came forward when it was their time to talk. The story, told in long soliloquies which were memorized (and undistinguished, though sometimes viewy) prose, was roughly a young man’s coming of age story. The young man (“the hero” the play called him) was the worst actor on earth, and everyone had a look of panic, or perhaps indifference, on their faces so invariable that the director must have told them to be deliberately without affect. It was something of which the East Side Community center might be modestly proud to put on for Parents’ Night, but for it to be at an international theater festival was ludicrous. Surely someone had seen the thing before issuing the invitation. Linda saw a rehearsal– I will say for it that it was well-memorized– but also she had her friend to consider, and maybe couldn’t say it was crap. How did somebody think to put something like that on a stage? Where did somebody think it fit in the progression of the theater arts? Perhaps I should have stayed for the talk-back to find out.

My cabby home was Nigerian, and we talked about Goodluck Jonathan, and the cabby’s theory that he rose to power by virtue mostly of his name. My cabby the night before was one of those combative Irishman, and I had to deal the whole ride with his wanting to pick a fight.

This, but for one hour, has been the least neurotic sojourn abroad. I thought of little but what I was doing in the moment, and that was well. Barring flight disasters this morning, I will count it all as an unexpected success. The theater was disappointing, though somehow I don’t find myself disappointed. The Merrion is paradise. They saw me sharing a taxi with Linda, and last night at turn-down, they turned down both sides of the bed, left two bottles of water, assuming I had a guest.

Dublin 6

October 10, 2013

Yesterday was my sad day. There’s always one on a longish stay away from home. The distance gathers, memories gather, ghosts appear who can neither be dismissed or assuaged. I sat in the café of the Royal Hibernian Academy and was as sad as I’ve ever been. I can say why now, what I was thinking of, but the dread power is gone and I do not want it back. I’d been to the Royal Hibernian before, but it’s modernized, now, and the displays perky and contemporary, the desk attendant so charming when he was telling me about them that it’s his face that’s before me, green-eyed, animated. The whole apparatus was lovely. The workers at the café were happy and friendly and distinctive, the short stocky red-bearded boy with a voice like the sea wind. The girl hugged him. Went to the National Museum for the dead bog kings and all the gold, to the Library for a dose of Yeats, and to see Michael Yeats’ bust, telling me he died in 2007. The institutions were full of beautiful children, the boys with the broad backs and long legs of men, but the mischief of children. Ate at an Italian restaurant, where I tried to chat with the waiter in Italian, and he said I was good. The man next to me was ill in some way and kept complaining about his food, but ordering more, quizzing the waiters on what was in it. The Japanese-American girl on the other side sat at the table without ordering–she kept telling the waiter “give me one more minute”– bitching out her mother on cell phone. She was brat sometimes, sometimes a needy child, with the greatest sense of entitlement discernible in a human being.

I lost my Jameson cap. It dies where it was born.

Met Linda again when we both left a performance of The Threepenny Opera at the Gate at the interval. I thought it was pedestrian and wasting my time; she was infuriated, taking its flaws as some kind of deliberate effort to undermine the theater. We ended up at Foley’s, drinking with some old woman from Pennsylvania until there was nothing more to drink. Linda is deaf in one ear and conversation in the bar, with the singer next to us and all, was interesting.

I have been rising early, as I do back home. The problem with “early” here is that it’s 1 AM back home. Have planned nothing for today, except to walk west, inland. I almost never go past Christ Church.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Dublin 5

October 9, 2013

My dreams have not been especially Irish and my wakings have been so “normal” I thought at first I was in my own room.  Dream last night that President Obama came to visit campus, and I was put on the work detail to help build the modular house he would stay in rather than a hotel. An austerity measure, I think, though he never stayed in the house we built. It was a thrill to meet him. He was very matter-of-fact and businesslike, rather like a Scoutmaster, I thought. There was a lot of mud on the building site, and someone from the Foreign Languages Department had a pet moose that kept getting loose. Obama was very patient with all this, even once catching the moose for us. The moose looked like a big dog, but we were assured it was not.

When I returned from roaming yesterday I was prepared to cooperate with the maid’s schedule, but the superior maid, a French woman, saw me and assured me they would fix up my room immediately so I could have full use of it. She was very bubbly and polite, but there is an equal chance my tantrum was widely reported and her attitude was actually sarcasm. I didn’t care.

Hugh Lane yesterday, and various roaming on my increasingly sore legs and feet. The plantar’s wart I understand. The ache in the legs– is it new? Do I always get it and forget about it between journeys? It’s just a shade from debilitating, and I’ve used more taxis than I ever have before. Maybe it’s the shoes, as it nearly always is. I do get to talk to the taxi drivers who, to a man, confess to not having been to the theater for years and years, though they took the kids to a panto a while back.

The secret garden at the Hugh Lane is one of Dublin’s loveliest features.

Wrote in the fireplace lounge, watching three beautiful women and one clearly intimidated man run a business meeting.

I realize I do not know how to be served.

Late afternoon (by taxi) to the Peacock for Eamon Morrissey’s Maeve’s House, a one-man reminiscence based on the fact that Morrissey and the (evidently) famous writer Maeve Brennan lived, at different times, in the same house in Dublin. It was amiable and informative, but differed in no respect from an incredibly well-delivered lecture. I do like lectures, so. What struck me is that a theater here can expect to have sold-out houses at 6 in the evening. Flirted with a guy in the lobby beforehand, but lost him in the mass exit at the end.

Wandered O’Connell Street for a while feeling not exactly melancholy, but– something. I feel as comfortable in Dublin as I do anywhere in the world, and yet it is not my home. I catch myself digging for memories of my wild youth in the suburbs, and coming to O’Connell Street and hanging with my gang under the blue stars and the blue Spike, and of course none of it happened, and of all the people I know I’m the best at separating fantasy from remembrance. I do not have those remembrances of Akron, either. It is chilling. One cannot repair the past.

Returned here and had wine in a couple of locals. In the one where I met Mark and Grace I met a girl from California who’s studying Marketing at Dublin College, and her parents were with her, and we had a long and jolly talk. Their family had arisen in Swinford, Mayo, which I actually know. I was glad I had made the last effort so I could come back to the Merrion jolly. Two cabbies were having a fight in Baggot Street. One was white and the other black, but I’m not sure that’s what the fight was over. A “homeless” man that I’d ignored in front of Doheny & Nesbitt (though later I came out and handed his girlfriend a wad of change) came out of his apartment with a sandwich and beer in his hand, which he consumed before he took up his place under the ragged blanket again. “Say, mate,” he said as he passed.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Dublin 4

October 8, 2013

Most of the National Gallery was blocked off, so that didn’t take long. Saw some old friends. Bought a ticket for tonight’s show at the Phoenix. Hung out at the Flowing Tide with Colm, the only bartender there not named Dave. When he and his friends were in New York, their vow was never to pass a bar bearing one of their names or the word Guinness. Walked all day, returned, exhausted and in need of various kinds of relief. I had been gone for six hours, was back three minutes and literally had just sat down on the toilet when the maid knocked to fix my room. I was furious. I scolded her, realizing that to some degree it was unfair, but also that it was not even conceivably a coincidence that she should show up just then (the halls were empty in every direction when I unlocked the door) and that the same thing should have happened every day of my stay. I hope she is terrified. Went grudgingly to the basement bar, had a yellow concoction, and chatted with a couple from Chicago who had just had “the trip of a lifetime.” She was chatty, he taciturn, very old with very many aches and pains, but helping each other down the hall as they must have done for time out of mind. It was sweet to see them.

To the Abbey to see McGuinness’ The Hanging Gardens. Met in the bar another couple from Chicago, who also have a home in Kerry. Linda was there, too, and we formed an expatriot cadre in one corner, with our drinks and flat accents. The Hanging Gardens was really quite horrible. The acting was good–that hardly needs to be said-- but the play itself was the worse for being written by a professional who knew what buttons to hit to make people think, for a while, that his work was the real thing. It’s a family drama where there is strained poetry and buried secrets and awful revelations from the very first moment, before you have any idea who these people are or why you should care. He has stolen from every dysfunctional family from the House of Atreus down to George and Martha and in all directions around, and the effect, to me, was totally, bottomless false. Borrowed finery, worn like a whore. Chatted with Linda at the interval, and she noticed the same thing, but didn’t hate it, calling it “Appropriation” and “Appropriative Theater,” and finding it “interesting.” I did in fact see her point, but didn’t like it any better for the understanding. The second act made everything jolly and they sang a song together, and then dad went madder still, lest McGuinness be accused of veering off from wailing profundity at the end.  Linda hated the second act, so I felt vindicated. We shared a taxi home, but the driver missed both places and we each had to walk a little through the night. I stopped at Foley’s and heard the fine singer again, and then walked a little (I was drunk by then) to a bar set far back in a building, where I had the best time yet, and I tried to buy the band a round, but they were drinking water, as it would not have been in days of yore.

My last trip to Ireland was dark. This one is light, and I am grateful. Have barely thought of my life back home. Have barely thought of anything but what I am doing. The night rain is yellowing toward morning.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Dublin 3

October 7, 2013

Rose late yesterday but still early enough to hike to Saint Patrick’s for sung mass. The men and boys’ choir was magnificent, but made the same mistakes we do, coming in late on a verse, losing their places, though the sound was so magnificent it hardly mattered.  The great building was holy and gloomy, exactly as I wanted it. The sermon was on faith, springing from Christ’s odd comment that if the apostles had any faith at all they could cause yon mulberry tree to uproot and plant itself in the sea. I have a deficiency of faith, or a perpetually disappointed faith, so I listened, but got smiling Anglican wit rather than succor. Ugly thoughts, unresolved memories were in my head as I sat in the space before the service began. Certain moments of coming to rest let all that slosh out like bilge water. At the coffee hour I met Paul, a very tall man, a priest who left his parish last week and meets his new one next week, and filled in the gap with Saint Patrick’s. His new post is St Patrick’s, Trim, where he will be installed Friday. We chatted about American and Irish politics. Him I filed away into my could-be-friends-when-I-move-to-Ireland box. Made my slow way–eating salad and tea on Lord Edward Street-- to Trinity, where I had tickets to Ground and Floor. There I met Linda, a theater fan from New York, who is about to open a website called Linda knew everything about the avant garde theater scene in New York, and was willing to share. She asked me who my favorite contemporary playwrights were, “besides yourself,” and, by God, I couldn’t name a one. She recited a list of those to whom I should pay better attention, and I will. Ground and Floor turned out to be ten minutes of matter stretched out over an hour and a half. I kept falling asleep and dreaming what was happening onstage, except that my script was way, way better. The actors were very pleased with themselves at the end. They did have excellent balance. Helped Linda find an address she has a meeting at this morning. Came home, soaked my aching legs, went out for a quick one at Foley’s, was early to bed. At Foleys I shared a table with an English girl who has two children, Olivia and Alfie, and she’s over here with her boyfriend, but after 4 hours of watching football the boyfriend went to bed, and she, desperate to see some of the real Ireland, drifted to the pub where the excellent singer could be heard in the street.

Bought a tiny watercolor of Lough Corrib from Edward Thomas of Village Weir, Lucan.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Dublin 2

October 6, 2013

Dull morning, so dull I slept very late, with an extended dream about doing a play with the students at school, during which we turned into vampires. I had hard time finding the table to take off the make-up afterwards.

Yesterday met Loretto in her gallery for the first time in years of trying. She looks well indeed, though she had tales to tell of open heart surgery last summer. I think she is a greater power in the art world than she lets on. Today she is in Nice for some conference, so I met her just–. Stephen says there is a death in the family, so he can’t meet me until Tuesday. I think he doesn’t want to see me, and picked a day that was plausible and yet late enough that I might be gone. It’s all right. I won’t try again.  Jason did the same thing, made up an elaborate story about a deluge so he wouldn’t have to come to the meeting he himself had insisted upon. I am able to take “no” for an answer. I expect to take no for an answer. Arrived back at the hotel late in the afternoon, at the exact second the maid was doing my room. Had a drink in the lounge, came back at the exact second the maid overseer was checking the maid’s work. This infuriated me. Hope I kept it to myself. It is a great hotel. Everyone calls me by name.

Late last night to Project Arts to see Riverrun, an adaptation by Olwen Fouere of part of Finnegan’s Wake. Ms Fouere was sensational. The evening proved that a charismatic actor can deliver even nonsense for a while and still keep an audience, though she (the piece, rather) lost me long before the end.  Handsome boy beside me who was her colleague, so I had to keep myself awake. The Wake is an exhausting joke that the amateurs and Philistines got right off. We academics still hammer away, trying make something of it, while Joyce in the Heavenly Dublin laughs.

Boring hour in the George. Portrait of John the beloved bartender on the wall, whom I knew and who knew me.

Derelicts in the street. They’re grubby enough, but how many are genuine? Saw one on Dawson, though, welcome a puppy from the street, who curled up beside him with the boy’s hand on his head.

I hope there’s still the Sunday art show on Merrion Square. Dived in yesterday. The shady areas are very dark, the meadows very bright.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Dublin 1

October 5, 2013

Writing from the beige-pink elegance of my room in the Merrion in Dublin 2.  I suppose I’ve been in showier hotels, but this has layers of charm, personnel of flawless courtesy, and the best art collection–all the Irish masters–I’ve seen outside a museum. Several Georgian houses were combined to make it, one of which was the birthplace of the Duke of Wellington. The flights were perfect, the one from Charlotte here so empty I had three seats to myself to sprawl upon. My taxi driver was Turkish, and I told him how must I loved Istanbul. We chatted about the disastrous conditions of both our countries’ governments. The glitch was that I couldn’t get into my room for eight hours, after 11 hours en route. Planes land at 6 AM and last night’s tourists do not need to be out until noon and the maids need to clean: it’s a problem even the best hotels have not solved, except by chance. It did require me to wander about, and wander about I did. Ate much salad. Drank much wine. The wine, I think, got me loosened up and receptive, when I had been inclined to be crabby and a little inward in my first few hours on the Dublin streets. Sat at the outdoor table where I wrote The Beautiful Johanna and began another play. The intermittent rain was just right. The crazy lady babbling across the street was just right.
After a brief, violent nap I went to the Culture Box to see Rough Magic’s version of Sheridan's The Critic. The drawing room part was in the Culture Box and the theater part was in the Ark, around the block, to which we walked through the distractions of the Temple Bar. The conception was daring, the execution superb (if not quite flawless), the overall impression magnificent. It joins the thin ranks of those plays, comedies or tragedies, which made me weep with gratitude before the end. Most wonderful, and yet most wonderful. I have never seen bad, or even mediocre, acting in Dublin. I have seen flawed conceptions, but the conception here was inspired and inspiring.
Loitered in the Temple Bar, then hiked on my sore feet back here, stopping in Foley’s for a nightcap, where I met Grace and Mark. Grace is a cardiac technician, and Mark is about the task of setting up a law practice. We talked about everything, understood one another, and I did not say to them, but should have, that it was the perfect top-off of a perfect evening.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

October 3, 2013

Joy to discover that Kevin the Frog is still a citizen of his weedy pond. He went silent during the summer, and the tangle of pickerel weed covered his actions almost perfectly.

What do I want? I want for my mouth to be filled with praise. I struggle to permit that. It’s harder than I would have thought.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

October 2, 2013

Paul the scamming hacker phoned forlornly all yesterday. I wasn’t here to pick up, but there were thirty-five failed calls, and after I got home several that said “unknown caller” which I didn’t answer. He did leave one message, “Sir. . . sir, please pick up the phone. . . “ What on earth did he want? Since his contact with my machine is gone, he must know I’m on to him. Since PayPal returned my money, he must know I’m on to him. Perhaps since I was so easy a mark the first time he thought he could convince me the second time. Odd sense of rootlessness without access to my main computer, though I did manage to transfer everything. Odd sense of insecurity, imagining he can get me somehow just by having my phone number. Cecily said she got a call like this in the Hague. What would the world be like if people didn’t try to take advantage? If people didn’t do every mean little crime they can get away with?

Dream before waking. My poems were part of an anthology, and all the contributing poets were gathered at a big auditorium to read from it.  I was assigned other people’s poems rather than mine. I was trying hard to do a good job, trying to figure out the odd syntaxes, the just plain bad lines.

Unusual agitation before heading to Ireland. What do I expect from this trip? My nerves expect something more than my mind does.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

October 1, 2013

I feel like I’m already wayfaring; my table computer is far away getting scrubbed of viruses and invaders, and I’m using my travel computer, which looks miniature and forlorn in the middle of my vast desk. Yesterday was one of those days so full of crosses and problems and frustration that it might have been comic were it happening on a movie screen. One goes on, forgetting why, grateful for ingrained and stupid habit. Two agents requested Wyona, and I had to warn them afterwards not to look at the attachments, as my computer may have been compromised. I sensed their interest ebbing away across the miles. It is too hard. It’s a comic opera where the tunes are tired and the jokes aren’t funny.

Fought off sobs teaching Yeats today. I say that one teaches in order to learn, and it s true. I found myself fitting one more piece into the vast, unfinished dome, moved almost to the point of silence. Perhaps I should let go one day, and let them see the true and final effect of poetry.

Got a Thai massage; lying on a mattress on the floor reminded me of graduate school, my little room overlooking Syracuse, my much-visited second hand mattress.