Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December 31, 2013

Two excellent days at the studio, whose temperature seemed to normalize while the world’s did not.

Last night there was an odd moment which mixed dream with reality, Circe climbed onto my chest, and went into an ecstasy of face rubbing, hers on mine. I usually prevent this, but I was mostly asleep, and it seemed something she needed to do. It was a mixture of pain and pleasure, for she kneaded my neck with claws that she never learned fully to contract, and sometimes it was quite stinging, though it seems to have left no marks. Each time she rubbed her face on mine, a picture would appear in a little frame, as though she were conveying to me some sort of hidden wisdom, of past lives, or of things a regular cat could not possibly know. That part was beautiful. Prophetic, even.

Last Day, and I’m not in a very nostalgic mood. When I thought of things that happened, I first found Stephen’s refusal to meet me in Dublin, a blow so gratuitous against a relationship so lighthearted and, I thought, pure, that one cannot quite get past it. There must be some meaning there that I have not yet internalized. But I think also of candlelight at the Apothecary, the crying of the muezzin from the minarets of Byzantium, the windy slope of Troy, my Lincoln uttering from the stage, the secret lives of my flowers in the garden. . . . much has been well. Levels of friendship seem to have gone up, levels of anxiety to have gone down. We’ll see. Amy has rounded up a gang to celebrate at Avenue M tonight. It’s not yet daylight. 2013 may have an adventure in it yet.

Last-day passing into evening. 2012 was one of the bad years of my life in spirit. 2013 was much better. I maintain that my sadness is specific and material. I know it, generally, to be a response to affliction from the outside, and that being said, I’m grateful when there’s less of it. I do everything I can to have an upright life. Sometimes it works. It worked fairly well this past twelve months. One prays for strength. One prays for attentiveness, so that when one loses the path, one knows.

Strange comfort from something that happened in the kitchen this morning. At the bottom of a tea pot were patches of mold. Now, nothing had been in the pot but tea, the next thing to water, and yet the little creatures had found something to live on. I took the resourcefulness, the determination to heart. It was a shame to bleach them out, maybe, but I knew, leaving them a film of cold nothing, they would rise again. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

December 29, 2013

Jacques Gallot on Pandora

Some work at the studio yesterday, but the cold crept soon into the bones. Painting for my new walls.

Enjoyable party at Jack and Leland’s, a costume party to which I wore Charles’ Trinity regalia. Something allowed me to enjoy myself more at such an event than I have in a long time. Ate wrong and much, vomited in the rain in Jack’s driveway. Even that was well.

Slept under the tree, dreaming dreams that were largely about going to fancy hotel bars and not being able to order anything to drink.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

December 28, 2013

Tried the studio yesterday, but it was too cold to work.

W came to my house, and over the unwavering insistence of his three-year-old on being the center of attention, seemed to imply that the property is “perfect.” I showed him everything that I could think of that was wrong with it. Conscience clear there. One sees the channel down which the universe is pouring its energy, and one goes with it, even if it’s not what one had in mind. If it goes according to plan– W’s plan, apparently God’s plan-- it will save everyone a whole lot of bother. Not to be bothered any more than necessary is almost always my plan, too. Will is in the enviable position that whatever I make from 62 is gravy, and I’m not a greedy person anyway. They say that the way to make God laugh is to make plans; it seems that He is making these plans. I’m not laughing exactly, but I am managing a quizzical smile.

Friday, December 27, 2013

December 27, 2013

Fine time in Alpharetta. My nephews seem almost charmed, handsome, affectionate, surrounded by friends, like my students, invigorating to be around. My sister has her achievement as a mother behind her, largely, and the next act all before her. Left Atlanta under an enamel dawn sky with a flock of geese flying over.

I can see the action at my “new” house, people moving around, trucks being loaded up as Stuart moves gradually out. I have always been able to spy on whoever lived there, but only recently did. Not much of a busybody. . . .

Americans baffle Europeans in part because of our willingness to adhere to convictions that have no basis in truth or fact– at which point we make the cleaving unto the wildly false conviction into a kind of religion, the blind adherence a kind of virtue. We hold the dignity of the individual in high esteem– and that is well, though it becomes unwell when part of that respect becomes allowing the individual to say any damn thing he pleases without fear of being called an idiot or a liar. Few Europeans would say, “I’m entitled to my own opinion” and assume that idiocy, depravity, falsehood were part of that entitlement. On the car radio I listened ten minutes of Conservative Republican analysis of a world which does not exist, and the reporter never once said, “Yes, but I was referencing Planet Earth–“ The point they were talking to was how to attract votes from people who hate and fear your principles without changing those principles. I confess that they did have success convincing the American proletariat (and sub-proletariat) that their interests were served by enriching the rich. It’s hard to doubt one’s powers after a coup like that.

Kid wanted to borrow my truck to move. OK. But it took four phone calls and that many missed passes finally to find the address. I was blue with rage. It’s a house, with an address, on a street; find it. I told him to turn south and he turned north. Maybe he was a true American and fighting the elitist notion that one  “south” is better than another.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

December 25, 2013

Lovely service last night, I think.

DD was lurking in the vestibule. When I recognized her I said, “Merry Christmas! How are you!”

“I suck.”

“And how are the kids?”

“Fucked. I’m here to get away from them. Isabella ran after me calling ‘Where are you going?’ but I was damned if she was going to come along.”

It took me a moment to realize I wasn’t hearing the standard holiday chatter. The children are high school drop-out dope heads who tell her to get the fuck out of their rooms. It went on for a while as I tried to pull away. I think she thought she was eliciting sympathy from me, but she was actually telling me how she managed to ruin three beautiful kids.

What is the message I take with that? Fathers, if you’ve married selfish floozies, don’t die too soon? Drank too much, still rifting up Bailey’s, on my way to Atlanta.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve

Late afternoon. Spent the day– how? Many naps, much reading, much listening to Christmas music, a few errands.

The final truth is that the conception of God as a baby in our arms--vulnerable, wholly dependent for a moment on us as we are on Him– is profound almost past contemplation. It rises from the calamities of bad religion like a tree in the forest, gowned in starlight and snow, pure. For one night we are at our best.

December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve. Slept on the sofa under the lit tree. It must have lightened my dreams, though I do not remember them. Downloaded an introductory version of Sibelius, the music composition program, and spent last evening setting one of my poems to music. Sibelius is already less infuriating than Finale. Good hours at the studio yesterday. Might go today, though it’s a little creepy when I’m the only one there. What do I want for Christmas? The same thing I have always wanted. God has stopped asking, he’s so weary of the answer. If he yielded, he wouldn’t have to hear it anymore. W (having seen my announcement on Facebook) wants to look at 62. It’s prudent to sell it fast, of course, though I hadn’t intended to, and I can’t stop thinking of my grieved-for cats lying under the dirt, of the plants I’d thought to watch in their changes through the rest of my life. You can start over. You can weed out the horrible grove of black walnut and have other plants, another garden. In time. It has ever been a joy to me when I’ve been able to do unexpected (by me) good in the lives of others, when something I have done or the moment I have arrived turns out to be excellent luck for someone around me. I feel a little that way now. I am propelled into the new house at a rate so far exceeding my actual desire for it that it occurs to me to think that fate seized the chance to allow Stuart to go home to Mississippi after–according to him–95 showings of the house. W has proposed owner financing, and I will agree to that, and the ways it does him good as a man with a new baby and who knows what kind of credit is incalculable. Good for me, too. . . good for me too. . . . sort of. . . though I feel a little separated from my expected joy. I wonder if some intricate operation in the past was to benefit me? You’d think I’d remember that– or maybe those things are concealed from those they benefit, lest we become dependent on the miraculous.

Monday, December 23, 2013

It Is Like This

It is like this: There is a great house at the edge of the forest. Everyone is trooping into the great house, families, friends, shouting and laughing, carrying baskets of food. When I get to the door there is whispering, and one of them turns and stops me in the doorway and says, “We have prepared something special for you.” She leads me to a little cottage. It is lovely, and warm, and has everything in it. She says, “This is yours.” Then she turns and goes back to the shining house and leaves me alone in my cottage at the edge of the woods. It takes time to realize what has happened. Everything is lovely, comfortable, but I have been rejected, exiled. It’s empty but for my little spirit. It begins to snow, and I go back to the house, but the door is locked and the curtains are drawn and the sound of mirth inside is so loud they can’t hear me. I stand in the deepening snow, not certain whether I should return to the cozy, lonely little cottage, or strike out for the deep forest.

December 23, 2013

December 23rd has always been one of my favorite days. Church yesterday, thinking myself in unusually clear voice. Neighborhood party at the house right across from mine over the alley. Nice, nice people. The house decorated like a magazine. After about half an hour I realized how deeply, broadly, permanently I am alienated from standard suburban couple culture. Hung out with the household kid, a student at AP State, with whom I had something in common. His brother used to shy baseballs against the cottage. Drank diet coke at a hysterical rate.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

December 22, 2013

Dragged the furnace guy to 51 to look over problems the inspector found. Stuart stood out in the rain, but I invited him in, and I think it was a good idea. I mentioned to him, conversationally, what the inspector had found and he nodded and agreed to fix them all– the furnace alone will cost $400. Some he didn’t know about–such as the fact that one of the burners on the stove was out. Karen was a little apprehensive, for there is a process whereby she gives the list to his realtor and bla and bla and bla, but a man can feel the vibration from another man, and I guessed the direct approach would be better. I’m sorry we didn’t meet before this. We are near neighbors and I think we could have been friends.

Chunk of the afternoon with Casey. We ate downtown at Over Easy (whom I have always loved because they found my lost cellphone, and went to some trouble returning it to me) and talked, talked, talked. He filled in the blanks on whole epics of local theater gossip, and on the unsuspected turbulence of his own life. I admire this. I’d no more talk about the dark of my life in a casual conversation than I would fly to the moon. I felt honored and–what?– brotherly when he did. The cook at Over Easy is Ben, a former student, who bought me a mimosa. Casey and I ranged up and down Lexington finishing our Christmas shopping.  I was happy being with him. The lady in the store talked me in to buying my sister a pretty handbag (“All women love bags”), my realizing afterward that I’ve never seen her with a handbag. Maybe it was for the lack of one. . . .

Sat at my table deep into the night reading Tolkien. Something's gotten into my throat and I'm barking like a seal.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

December 21, 2013

Up in the deep dark of Longest Night. Couperin in solemn mode on Pandora, which for some reason is exactly right.

Lay on the sofa and read last night. It reminded me a boyhood. My adult life has been too– too corrupt in its notions of “achievement” and “time well spent” for much of that. Peaceful.

Settled down and took a bunch of documents to Cameron. Gave in and sold the rest of the equities I needed for the downpayment, which will be hell with taxes, but Cameron seemed so wistful and disappointed that all the data would not be in the reports of a single month. After you say, “well. . . maybe. . . “ it’s all about pleasing other people.

Maybe the rest I have to say will wake with the pivotal day

Friday, December 20, 2013

December 20, 2013

Though I personally stumbled more than once, Cantaria and our guests from Greenville sang beautifully last night to an absolutely packed-to-the-rafters house. Paul said my contra-bass in the Tchesnakov was “seamless” and “perfect tone.”  It is his ear one wishes to please. Interesting moment when I was dressing and put on my new tuxedo for the first time, and discovered that though the pants were marked with the right waist size, the actual cut was about four inches too small. Thank God for a random pair of black pants. I do remember picking up the tux–after extensive fitting a few weeks before– and, being asked if I wanted to try it on, saying, “Oh, I’m sure it will be all right.” Anything to cut out a step. One comes up against one’s faults from time to time massed and concentrated. One problematic aspect of my character is that I’m sometimes finished with a process before it decides it’s finished. I refused to revise my dissertation the “one last time” Dr Sutton called for. Thank God the rest of my committee were behind me on that.  If Karen and Cameron were not prodding from their separate corners, I’d refuse the process involved with buying a new house. I neglect to try on clothes, sure that it will be all right. The possibility of bending the process to my urgency now is worth to me the possibility of mishap further down the road. I never once in my life have said, “I wish I’d had more time for that.” I descend into rage at the extenuation of publication, of production, seeing where it will end and having no patience with the road that gets me there. Usually this results in unthinking depression that sends me to bed after a storm of rage. Sometimes I am able to think, “you’re an impatient brat.” I consider the world and myself as equal partners, that things should manifest somewhere in the middle of my tempestuous need and its glacial disregard. It’s only fair, right? It doesn’t work that way. Even as I write words of resignation, I feel my mind seeking for a new strategy, a new approach to circumvent the process and arrive at the goal even one second faster. I tell God horrible things in order to make Him hurry. I want the things I want more than I want peace, so there is not much calm in the forecast.

Stan working at Avenue M, telling me about his wife after Mickey. He is older than his new wife’s father. I’d brag too.

Later: OK, so the tuxedo pants have adjusting buckles on either side and fit perfectly well. In my rage I didn't even see them. Calm down. . .  take a deep breath . . . .

Thursday, December 19, 2013

December 19, 2013

Went to bed in rage, woke in mirth, with no idea of what happened in the night to turn things around. The day has spent its energies hammering me back down, though. Inspection for 51 revealed a whole lot of problems. They mostly sounded minor– and both Karen and the inspector agreed they were– but they have to be addressed, and I left the house discouraged, exhausted, no longer enthusiastic about the purchase. Returned home to find that the cleaning ladies had managed to flip the circuit breakers. Can’t even imagine how that happened. How did they clean house with no power? A guy from Hollywood wants me to invest in a film called The Stone Pony. Email about things still on my check list for the loan, and the spike of rage almost undid me. There’ s diligence, and then there’s self-indulgence and stupidity. I am almost literally, physically incapable of fulfilling tasks that I know to be redundant or irrelevant, and it’s going to be interesting to see how all these details unfold. I am one who will leave a cart of groceries if the line’s too long.  They do not understand how easily I’d bid the dumbass process behind and just live in this house forever, which I was at one time resigned to doing. Played with Stuart’s dogs. Excellent exercise. The cats, in contrast, are forever tempting one to nap. Concert in three hours. I’ve practiced, but the distraction from other sides are so great that nothing sticks.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

December 18, 2013

Good workouts in recent days. Feel great after. Yesterday I drove to the Arboretum, toured there a little, and then plunged down onto the Silver Creek Road. The winter sun was hot on the south side of the hill; the bottom of the valley was 10 degrees cooler, and hosted a stiff breeze. Why it should be windy just above the creek and calm on the hillsides I don’t know. Long since I’d wandered there– maybe half a year. When I was atop the hill, wandering around near the visitors’ center, there was one other visitor, a tall thin man in a green coat. My memories of the place are such a mixture of the natural and the erotic that I slipped effortlessly back into that mode, and only barely stopped myself from throwing him a heavy cruise. That he was doing the same thing was clear. What was once a very familiar set of responses seemed foreign then, and awkward. Crept into some of my old secret spots, and had a striking vision in one. I’d shouldered through a rhododendron thicket down to creek that flows into Bent Creek from a hill to the south. I was there a while, and when I turned to go back, I saw the little woodland meadow through a frame of leaves, like a wild creature peering from deep cover into the abode of men. The perspective felt familiar. It felt natural, as though once upon a time that had been my customary mode. Blaze of pain from my plantars wart at every third step. One plunges on.

In the evening it was the second part of Jackson’s The Hobbit. Taken purely as itself, I suppose it was a good movie, though it departed too often, too gratuitously, too arrogantly from Tolkien to please me much. Why correct the masters when they’re always better than you are?

Monday, December 16, 2013

December 16, 2013

Full Sunday. Played St. Nicholas in the morning to the usual overflowing house. Cantaria open dress in the afternoon was, I think, the most successful dress rehearsal we’ve ever had, maybe BECAUSE there was an audience. We’re better in front of an audience then we ever have reason to expect. My phlegmy throat affected things less than I had feared. Chili at Avenue M with the usual crowd expanded by convivial strangers. I give it full marks. I was happy. Though my feet hurt. I expect there’s going to be a “though” from now on.

Read online about the possibility of transplanting peonies. It’s yes. One great anxiety taken away.

I’ve been telling people I’ve lived in this house for 18 years or so, but then I remembered that Jocasta lived here all her life, and she died at 20. Glanced through old journals to discover I moved into 62 Lakeshore on April 1, 1989. Twenty four years. Dear God. Longer than anywhere else, by far. To break that record now defies plausibility

I’ve been telling people I’ve lived in this house for 18 years or so, but then I remembered that Jocasta lived here all her life, and she died at 20. Glanced through old journals to discover I moved into 62 Lakeshore on April 1, 1989. Twenty four years. Dear God. Longer than anywhere else, by far. To break that record now defies plausibility

Sunday, December 15, 2013

December 15, 2013

Christmas choral on Pandora.

Finishing polish (for now) on the novel in the AM. Extra rehearsal in the afternoon, which was infuriating but, honestly, necessary. My throat phlegm was not entirely gone; may it be today when I must not only sing a concert and a service, but bellow out the greetings of Saint Nicholas. Party finally at Jack and Leland’s. I was in a receptive mood, so that was just as jolly as it was meant to be. I meant not to announce the purchase of a house, but the word leaked out. Rich knows the place, as I do, as “the murder house,” and
was in it when it was going through one of its renovations.

What if all these choices I'm making without time to consider or conviction to support turn out well?

A Visit from Saint Nicholas

Saint Nicholas I am, Saint Nicholas is me.
The name means”To the People, Victory.”
Agios Nickolaus is how it sounds in Greek,
But Santa Claus in the language that you speak.
The folks back home, who’d seen me little,
Who’d seen me sick,
Probably just called me Nick.

I was born in Anatolia, the Turkey that you know,
Seven hundred sixty seven years ago.
It was the Roman Empire then
Ruled by stern and warlike men.
We all waited to hear what was said and done
By the bighsots in Byzantium.
My father had a fleet of ships at sea,
and I could get the sailors to take me
Past the islands and to the far lands,
come back with spice and jewels in our hands.
So, in times to come, when people knew my name,
the patron saint of sailors and fisherman I became.
When there was danger or a storm at sea
they’d raise their voices and call on me,
and I’d save them, floating on the clouds to see ‘em,
If you believe the paintings in the museum.
All those boats and all those fish
meant just one thing: my folks were rich.
My loving papa died, and on that day
I began to try to give it all away.
There was so much it took a while
To make reduction in the glittering pile.

The story is told (though not by me)
--In language quite flowery--
of three girls in the town who could not wedded be
unless they had a dowry.
A dowry in those unenlightened lands
is what a father paid a lad to take a daughter off his hands.
Anyway, without the dowry, without a penny in their purse,
the unwed girls would turn to begging, or to worse.
So on three nights on my white horse
Quiet as a mouse, of course, of course
I rode by their house and over the wall
tossed bags of treasure, with coins big and small,
gold and silver, and certificates of deposit,
which I had in stacked up in my Anatolian closet.
Some say the bags fell down the chimney
and landed with a crash, by jiminy.
Some say just as I was riding by
The sisters were hanging stockings up to dry
and the thrown gold filled them up as mothers would
one day fill your stocking with things rich and good.
Maybe all of this happened. Maybe some of it did
I didn’t know, because I ran and hid.
A giver must give without blare and fuss,
And above all, be anonymous.
But people guessed, and year by year.
As bills were paid and meals set down on tables,
they smiled and whispered, sketching in the fables,
“Nicholas Gift-Giver has been here.”

You’d think that human kindness was enough,
but those days of yore were really rough:
pestilence, fevers, upheavals, persecution,
blasphemies, heresies, Diocletian!
I was a bishop, as you recall,
and had to find a remedy for it all.
One year there was famine on the land,
and a local butcher, lacking cows and chickens,
to the butchery of children turned his hand,
little boy cutlets, tiny tot hamburgers and chitlins.
I tasted something funny in the morning fry
and, vestments flapping, to the butcher shop did fly,
and to that horrible practice put an end.
I even made the dead boys live again,
brought them singing anthems, skull, foot, and spine
out of the butcher’s pickling brine.
So, are you the sausage on the plate before you?
Give me the word. I will restore you.

I did some bishopy things as well.
At Nicea before the Emperor Constantine,
before all the priests the world had ever seen,
I gathered to myself the righteous moxie
to champion the cause of orthodoxy.
I set the heresiarchs in their place.
And reputedly punched Arius in the face.
I guess I came through in the clutch.
But, do you care about that? I don’t so much.
I like the part about the gifts the best.
That made me Father Christmas to the West.

I see worried faces! My time is almost done.
This much of the Christmas tale I’ve spun;
That much more remains to tell. I scratch the surface.
But some stories go untold on purpose,
so you at some unfolding hour can find
fresh matter to delight your mind.
Twenty centuries I’ve done good in secret, unaware:
Two I’ve flown with reindeer through the winter air.
It’s OK. Things change. I understand.
Everything’s at imagination’s command.
But remember this! Saint Nicholas I am,
whose blessing calms the waters,
whose prayer brought life back to the dead,
who wore a bishop’s crown upon his head,
whose gold gets husbands for the poor man’s daughters.
Who smiles at every secret act of charity
And every wish fulfilled beneath twinkling tree.
My spirit governs for a thousand Decembers.
I brings good things to the person who remembers
the poor, the hungry, the afraid,
the little souls for whom this world was made.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

December 14, 2013

Extraordinary dream. I was the patriarch of a giant extended Jewish clan. We had recently moved to new land, and at the same moment an important archaeological find had merged under the same land. I had to oversee the construction of our buildings, make sure the dig and the construction did not clash, keep everyone on both sides, family and scientists, happy. People would send me slides of things they had done and I would have to bray “I like it! I like it!” If I didn’t actually like it, I’d have to send men in the middle of the night and put it back in order, and then blame the diggers. I saw myself in a mirror. I was big, with flaming red hair. I looked like Fagin.

Packing at the most minuscule intensity. People take moving as a time to condense and simplify. Not me. I want to take every book and knick knack with me.  I want to be surrounded by the gleanings of my life, such as they are.

The ice surface on the backyard water garden is strangely rippled and bunched, like a vast piece of land. How that can be achieved in an area smaller than a bathtub I don’t know.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Wrote my address down at "51 Lakeshore" for the first time. Much could go wrong yet, but I m casting my bread upon the waters.

December 13, 2013

Sang yesterday at the Asheville Country Club. I have an unusual case of laryngitis, so the verb “to sing” was a courtesy, but there was no other bass and I could provide the line so long as it was a firm forte. Delicious buffet.

Went to Cameron’s office and signed about a million documents. When I bought this house I had no down payment, a mediocre (to bad) credit rating, and $60,000 of credit card debt, and it was far easier than this. He explains that the change is because the banks screwed up so deeply in the recent past, but I don’t see why I should be expected to compensate for that. It wasn’t the making of risky loans that brought the house down, but the selling and reselling of them so that the ones who made them would never felt the repercussion of their failure. I rebel at their wanting to see every detail of what I know to be both private and irrelevant. My secret strength is that I would be almost as happy for the deal not to go through. When I reach the limit of compliance, I will simply stop, and let the outcome be what it is. I dwell on this more than I need to, for I have delivered myself over to upheaval and disorder, who spend so much energy insuring peace and productive order. More simply put, I am not used to people making that sort of demand on me, making me prove what I say, automatically assuming I’m a fraud bent on the illicit. Happily, I can conceive of this happening no further time.

I consider that the trees I will acquire are the trees that brim with bluebirds.

December 12, 2013

At 6:45 this morning–right now, in fact, I achieved the remake of Night, Sleep, and the Dreams of Lovers. Heat hissing in the registers.

I have given myself over for a while to distraction. Every element of this house purchase thinks it needs my attention, dotting this i, crossing this t. Some of it, of course is due diligence. Some of it is silly, or a ploy to get as many palms crossed as possible. There is humor in the scrutiny and levels of proof needed for my little purchase, when the same banks will go out and throw billions at uncertain deals, if more profitable than mine, also infinitely more likely to fail.  What absurdities can be uttered by straight faces! What ludicrous concerns can be presented as–somehow–needful!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

December 10, 2013

OptionsXpress finally having allowed my money to arrive safely, I went to the little BB&T Branch and bought this house. I paid it off sixteen years early by any calculation, more than twenty years early if we count the re-financing a couple years back. It would all have sweeter savor if I had only done that, and not plunged immediately into the buying of a new one. I hate fuss, and there will be nothing but fuss for the foreseeable future.

Adam Blake came and flew the leaves out of my gutters. He is the first person who knew.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

December 9, 2013

Two hours spent filling out papers, signing papers, having papers explained in Karen’s office drained me. I was pretty much off the idea of buying a house. Around 5, Karen called and said they’d accepted my offer. I realized my emotion had not been discouragement, but anxiety. I realized this because when they said “yes,” I was full of joy.

Monday, December 9, 2013

December 9, 2013

Long Sunday, full of singing. Someday I will look back on such as the perfect days.

Not perfect for everyone. During break at Cantaria, B passed out at the top of the steps and fell resoundingly. The EMTs were called. An on-the-spot diagnosis was a broken tibia, Whatever it was, we could hear him groaning through the closed door. B emails this AM to say he's all right, and unbroken, a sweet levity in his message.

Thomas’ sermon made the wheat-from-the-chaff prophesy of John make sense for the first time. I used to think the wheat and the chaff were different people. He made me see that John means the grown-out-of parts and the fulfillment of the same people.

Early to bed, early to rise, with an entire workday between me and noon.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

December 8, 2013

Squalls of tremendous dark rain. I would have thought it too cold to rain.

Working hard on a revision of Night, Sleep, and the Dreams of Lovers. How much time needs to pass before it is fully evident what needs to come out?

The purchase of the new house tosses over and over in my mind. Adventure is on one side, repose on the other. I think, though, it is full steam ahead, so much so that I’m impatient with “due diligence” and the leisurely course of monies from one account into another.

Lessons and Carols last evening. I felt strangely disengaged, perhaps because my stomach was perilously upset. I know what causes it, and yet I do it anyway. There must be a word for that. Anyway, I sang distractedly, and made mistakes I’d not made before. Rushed home, got relief, thought I’d spend the rest of the evening writing. Instead, obeyed the call to Avenue M, where the gang was gathered. Drank delicious cider. In bed monstrous early, up now monstrous early, which is the way I like it.

Finally read the essay– it’s a courtesy to call it that– against Apothecary in the latest Metabolism. Before I’d read it I’d advised Frank to leave it be, as it was likely so trifling nobody would pay it heed. I was right. It allowed undergraduate white boys to strut their liberal credentials, and nothing much else. The entire magazine was pretty awful, badly designed, the pieces badly chosen, the poetry unreadable, the editorial attitude manifestly snotty. I know the editors enough to know they’re still in their “anything goes and all things are equal” phase, but it’s a shame to waste resources like that. Will anybody pick up the next Metabolism? As an educator I want to get my hands on those boys and make sure they understand that groupspeak– the uncritical mouthing of the truisms of your clan– is just as bad in your mouth as in your enemy’s. Your thoughtless piety is not necessarily any better than Michele Bachman’s or Ted Cruz’s The essay was a compendium of unconsidered dogma picked up in a social science class and never digested, never, as it should, have been, spat out. I would point out that the “science” part of “social science” or “political science” is but a bitter courtesy. They got everything wrong, counting on the piously nodding heads of their compatriots to conceal that fact until it all got into print. Finally, if they worked themselves into a lather over Apothecary’s being a white inroad into a black neighborhood, it’s well that their research was too shoddy to uncover that the Lyric Opera has it headquarters in the same building, surely the whitest organization in the city. That would have made them apoplectic– if the end had been arguing for racial justice. The honest end was to take down visionary and energetic young men who did something worthwhile as they sat around doing nothing. Can’t let that go without a visit to the woodshed.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

December 7, 2013

Scurry to get financing together for the house at 51. There seems to be little doubt that I can get a mortgage–“at about any size you want,” said the man at the mortgage service. As soon as a check arrives at Toyota and money arrives in my account from the sale of equities and I obliterate my present mortgage, I’m debt-free. If I read the account right, my down-payment could be more than half the cost of the new house. But the man’s check-list of proofs I must offer is long and, in some places, esoteric, and maybe Karen will find something horribly wrong in the midst of due-diligence. Sleepless part of the night worrying about this an and that, mostly about THIS house. I’m not going to sell it soon– do I have a large domicile crossing a street, office in one place, living in another? Do I fix it up for tenants? Being a landlord is a pain in the ass, even when the tenant is–as is my case– sane and undemanding. The further one might not be. The problem is, of course, my gardens. Can I leave them? I never thought a problem like this would arise in my life.

Met Stuart, the present owner, in Fresh Market last night, never having seen him before round about so far as I can remember. His realtor had told him the story of the murder.

Maud’s cry from the hall sounded melancholy. I say, “We have no melancholy here.”

Matthew Locke on Pandora.

Friday, December 6, 2013

December 6, 2013

Went to bed weirdly and, at moments, violently ill last night. I assumed I was in for a long bout of it, but I rise this dark morning well. Can exhaustion really manifest that violently? Was it something I ate? Yesterday was hugely eventful, and maybe my body was asking me to shut down for a while.

Before the Humanities exam one of my problem students came to me– a big boy who slept through most of the discussion sections, but who attended faithfully– fighting back tears. He failed every exam and had not done his first paper, but I’d told him that if he got all his work end by the end of the semester, I would pass him with a D, hoping he had gotten SOMETHING out of it through faithful attendance. He came without the ancient paper, without the journal-- which was the big class project-- and without a single cultural event, on the day of the exam, to plead some sort of case, though what exactly was hard to tell. He started to blame me, saying that he hadn’t understood the assignments and the syllabus “wasn’t clear.” A sharp look from me made him add, “but I could have asked for help, and I never did.” He went through every twist and turn of apologetic self-loathing, as if I were going to take his failure personally. Finally he said, “You gave me every chance to pass this class, and I didn’t. I’m sorry.” This dwells in my mind because there are certain kinds of helplessness I don’t understand. The remedy for this was so easy, the consequences so hard. What can be going through people’s minds? You screw up; I give you a clear path to follow to amend the screw-up; you do nothing. I can understand this if you don’t really care, but then you come to the office in tears, as though you hadn’t seen it coming. I have taught for 33 years, and I have never gotten this. God must say this sort of thing a billion times a day.

The handsome carpet men came from Istanbul, and I have 3 new (old ) carpets, one of which was a gift, and new embroidered pillow cases, which were also a gift. Spent far too much money, but have no buyer’s regret, so I won’t worry about it. Ann came to the party and bought a runner for her house. She was very knowledgeable.

December 5, 2013

Prune the roses back to a little above the ground. Check on Lawrence the Fish and the tadpoles in their little unnatural ponds, thinking I'm ready for winter.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

December 4, 2013

Folie d’Espana on Pandora

Went to see the house across the street, the murder house. The realtor didn’t know it was the murder house and was not particularly happy to hear it. That just makes it more interesting to me. I thought it must be red-necky inside, but nothing could be further from the truth. It is rustic/elegant, with light pouring in from all sides.. I’m sad that I didn’t know the current owner better than I did- which is to say, not at all, for he is a manly and cultivated man. It suits me the best of any house I have seen yet, though the land is not better–a little worse–than what I have now. Something in the prospect of, maybe, owning that house lit a fire under me. I sold Diageo and paid of my house. I am now the sole owner of this property, bank go to hell. The actual check has not been written, for one must wait for the money to drift from one place to another. Makes you wonder why something that was not thought of for five years became suddenly, upon a winter’s afternoon, necessary. I have searched my heart for regrets, and I have none. I can buy this house outright and put a down payment on a new one (should that finally happen) and still have more money than I got from my father five years ago. I am even reconciled to the loss of the new house, already have plans for bringing this one up to standards without too much turmoil. It’s odd how you can think and think on an issue and arrive nowhere until a particular moment, as if that moment had been chosen long ago and nothing was going to move it.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

December 3, 2013

Put up the Christmas tree yesterday, a thing remarkable because doing the same task one year ago was weighed down with gloom and despair, an empty chore done only that I might not regret not having done it.  This year it was–just putting up the Christmas tree, tiring, but almost joyful. Flood of memories. I remember every ornament that went on our tree when I was ten years old. I remember at what point we would have hot chocolate. I remember my father’s drill of what went on before what. The light reflector were a very big thing with him. He must have seen a tree burn up once. They did give the tree the look of a child’s drawing of a constellation.

Bought T’s book on Kindle. I can’t imagine. . . .

“Giving Tuesday,” predictably, about a million organizations have their virtual hands out, wanting to be given to.

Monday, December 2, 2013

December 2, 2013

Eventful day. I began marketing The One with the Beautiful Necklaces in the same old hit-or-miss way. No rejections in, now, 20 hours.  Knocked myself out on the rowing machine at the Y. Coffee with Tom, who (defending his long crush on Andi McDowell) didn’t believe I was never star-struck, and kept naming names until he proved his point by lighting on Colin Farrell. Then a tour of White Bridge Farm with DJ and Karen. It was gorgeous, but a horrible truth entered my mind. I may have let this dream go a little too long. I can no longer do everything I once did. Can I keep up with a farm, or even a very large property? People my age are downsizing rather than trading up. I had to baby my knees climbing the stairs to the bedrooms (I blamed the rowing machine, but--) and I was glad when the sloping path to the road was over. The goats screamed disturbingly at us, and the goose was a ball of indignation. I’d like to have animals. . . I’d like to have a lot of things. . .  The days of infinite possibilities are over.

We bought Christmas trees, and set them up with unusually tedious effort. Mine is up, and pretty, and I am ready for the onslaught of merriment.

December 1, 2013

Coffee with Adam K as he swept from Waynesville to Greensboro. The world opens for him like a flower. Sometimes you like at a life and say, “This is working right,” and no amount of gratitude is excessive.

Ran into E and his two sons at the Christmas store in Biltmore. Knew there was a reason why I went in there.

Day warm as spring. I sat on a bench at church in my winter coat, soaking it in like an old bear.