Monday, March 31, 2014

March 31, 2014

Great winds last night. I expected disaster, and disaster came here and there, but not to me. Driving to church I saw a great spruce uprooted and leaning against a brick house on the corner of Graclyn and Kimberly. Maybe everything was unscathed, but I don’t think so.

The officious assistant stage manager I mentioned before has one real job, making sure her actors are on stage at the right time, and at the matinee she was gossiping and neglected time calls or to call “places,” and I made my first entrance only because I happened to wander backstage while John was making his curtain speech. Otherwise- disaster. The officious are never the efficient. So far maybe 25 people have seen the play over four performances. The laughter makes me think they’ve like it, though no other word comes, whether one is doing well or ill.

Cantaria, and then a chicken breast in sauce at Avenue M which brought tears to the eyes. Feel good today. Hit the Y. Found an exercise that works my curiously and persistently stiff shoulder. I feel good about the week ahead. April is a lucky month for me. The sun rises.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

March 30, 2014

Icy snow on the ground. I don’t recall any prediction of this.

Yesterday was obliterated by the fever. There was no pain and little distress, but also I don’t believe I was awake more than an hour at a stretch. Recovered thank God before the show, and I think we did well for the six or seven people in the audience. Asheville is actually a horrible place for the arts, however it accolades itself otherwise. Lots of lip-service, little real support or effort of understanding. I remember after attending that rather awful production of Cabaret trying to account for the praise it was receiving. No one had actually paid attention to what they were seeing. Cabaret was Broadway, so we loved it whether we did or not, whether there was anything to love or not. The audiences simply were not seeing what was there before them.That is sweet magic when you put up something shoddy and famous, bitter magic when you put up something hard and wonderful. Our Shaw is neither shoddy nor wonderful, but a great and famous play–never before done locally and probably never again-- deserves as many people in the audience as there are actors upon the stage.

Terrible sound of wind around me here in my attic office. The lights flicker. I tremble at the thought of the sweet gum coming down at 62, the great pine at 51. Property is a terrible thing.

A single bloom on my deciduous magnolia. Yesterday, anyway.

Amazing clarity and omnipresence of dreams. Dublin has been in many of them, such as this morning, when dream time ended with an extended effort to get to Dublin through a long cement train tunnel, the train, inexplicably, having to stop short of the station. I was traveling with Nick Morgan. I’ll be sitting or lying down running lines in my head, when I’ll cross the border into sleep, and I’ll still be running lines, but they’re from a different play, rich and strange. I fell asleep in my long wait in Act III last night, and when I woke there on an upper floor of the Masonic temple, no one in the room with me, the one sallow yellow light far away on the wall, I had no idea where I was. For a moment I thought I was dead, and my flash was, “Oh. So it’s dreary after all, like the Greeks said.”

Saturday, March 29, 2014

March 29, 2014

Dream in the afternoon, my disco nap, before tonight’s performance. It was night. I was bringing a friend with me to get certification for a Boy Scout badge I wanted, earned, but never got the paperwork done for. My old scoutmaster lived on Jarvis Street (??) But in the midst of the journey I forgot the house number. We pulled over at a pay phone in the middle of a park. Two men were mowing the grass in the park, by artificial light. One big man was sitting on the mower while the other, little, one was on his back, kissing his head, clearly wanting to make love to him. I went to the phone and made my call. When I got back to the car, the larger of the two workmen was raping my friend in the car. He had his hand over her mouth so she couldn’t scream, but she made whimpering noises that horrify me even now to think of. The smaller man was standing outside the car, crying not because of the rape, but because the friend he loved had chosen the woman over him. I pushed him aside. I got into the car and tried to pull the man away, but he wouldn’t be pulled. So I wrapped my fingers around his neck and started to strangle him. He was so intent on what he was doing that he kept on with it, and didn’t try to stop me at all. And then he was dead. My friend jumped out of the car and started screaming. Before I could comfort her, I caught myself thinking about how easy it was to kill somebody.

Friday night (the actual opening night, I should think, where people actually paid to get in) was a triumph of sudden readiness and good luck.  For my own part, I had finally hit that point where the lines come pouring out of my mouth without my having to angle for them, and my energy can go into interpretation. I remembered why I am happy on stage. The crowd was better than the night before, and four seats were covered by white papers designating VIPs.

Laughed my head off at the antics of the boys in the dressing room. Sweet thought that maybe they were showing off a little for me.

Woke vaguely ill. Maybe overindulged after the performance, maybe Z released toxins into my system during my massage. Admiring his beauty while we chatted, hoping I didn’t admire it too much while I was naked and lying under his hands. He touches me in ways that are wholly innocent to him but cause me a struggle of redirected attention.

Constant need to keep cool in the face of the presumption of assistant stage managers and the like. I think this is an Asheville problem, for it happens at UNCA as well. Someone gives them a skew vision of their power and they become, or assume themselves to be, little lordlings. Little duchesses, I should say, for it’s gender specific; I’ve never know it to afflict a man. The no-nonsense approach is a kind of nonsense.

Odd chirping sound under my window this morning. It’s organic, for it stops and starts and varies, but whatever it is seems to be invisible. Maud noticed it too, and was looking in a specific place, but I could discern nothing. .

Friday, March 28, 2014

March 28, 2014

Opening night went surprisingly, fortunately well. Tanner rather bombardiered the opening scene, but Anne got her bearings, and I followed her, so we sailed into harbor. In Act IV a disaster turned into the highlight of the evening. The actor playing Young Malone stepped on Violet’s dress and interposed seamlessly into his line, “I’m sorry I stepped on your dress.” Then he was meant to return a check from his father. The prop document got stuck in his jacket, and after a long struggle he took off his jacket and handed it to his father and said, “It’s in there somewhere,” and they played the jacket as though it were the check for the rest of the scene. It was genuinely hilarious. Never have I come so close to breaking on stage. Quite lovely.

Slept later than I have in years. Must run now to get it all in. Extended, intense dreams about going to restaurants far out into the countryside, where one sits at rows of picnic tables in barns and quonsets. Very rustic. The directions to get to these places were detailed and difficult, and one was never certain one was headed in the right direction, or had arrived at the right place. The restaurants were intended for large groups, so one traveled in long caravans, and one had to worry about not only oneself but about the people in the cars behind.  The food was precise and vivid in the dream; I must have been hungry.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

March 27, 2014

Crescent moon in the east, with Jupiter below the lower tip when I was on the street this morning. Beautiful. The way back from the Y was delayed because a large flock of turkeys were strutting and contesting in the middle of Kimberly Avenue, indifferent to the cars backed up waiting for them. A lot of toms strutting and fluffing.

Received the note last night that I was bending forward oddly to deliver some of my lines, and I recognized what my body does under stress, which is to sag forward as though the weight on my back were too great, or I was trying to protect my heart. Went to the Y and did a quick weight set, and felt my back straightening as I went. I could become a gnome if I left the weight room far behind. Right now I feel a new man. Dress rehearsal last night, two screw-ups on my part which were redeemed by my fellows. Home just before midnight. This is the best Montford experience I’ve had. This is the best I’ve ever handled the assorted irritations.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

March 26, 2014

Thinnest blanket of snow. Rehearsal canceled last night half way through, which I think was a bit of a panic, because the roads in town were clear. We open tomorrow night. I’ve been overconfident, and though all is well when I run lines in my head, when I get on stage I don’t always recognize my cue line, or I stumble over a word, or come off thinking I had not done well. I get no notes, except from Adrian, which is that I could be “bigger.”: “You’re doing it very naturalistic. You could be bigger.” He’s right. It’s hard for me to break the habit of striving for the truth of a character. I forget that some things are just meant to be silly.

The anniversary of mother’s death. Deep snow on Ithaca that day. Borrowing money from Denny so I could take the bus in the dark of the morning . . . .

Dreams before morning which I think were about defeat. I was in Dublin–which was like the real city but stretched out over big, rambling hills. I had failed terribly at something, and I was walking the streets, sitting down at cafes to peruse the magazines on the tables, or just to sit. The light was warm and comforting. Everywhere I went there were underground stables out of which emerged, at some point, gigantic bulls, like the one on the wall at Knossos.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

March 25, 2014

Light dusting of snow (wetting of snow is more accurate), a veil still falling. I left the masonic Temple at midnight last night. I expected to be pissed off, but I wasn’t. I enjoy the people I’m with, and the experience has been beneficial to me. I worry about getting enough rest, but like most worries that’s largely groundless. Here I am composing before morning, and no one wakes me, so I must have slept enough. Many of the sets (thanks to the mysterious Masonic backdrops) are quite lovely. The main characters are attractive, and –barring the occasional gap in lines– will be a pleasure to watch. Last night began the tech people’s laying down the individual, iron-clad and cherished rules– don't touch that, don’t stand there, don’t even think of doing this or that in your costumes–which are the marks of amateurism. I’m glad that I wasn’t actually there to hear them.  Arriving late from my class threw me off, and I don’t think I ever quite recovered. I slobbed around half in costume the rest of the night. My big opening act went unrehearsed (by me).

Dreamed of Man and Superman last night. I dreamed there was another act. Jack and Anne were married and they had a glowering, apparently retarded son that I–Ramsden–was hired to tutor. I did tutor the boy, whom I rather liked. He didn’t live in the house, but in a pit on stage with a wire roof over it. In the second scene of the act I returned and the boy had turned into a vicious dog. There were many lines about how to deal with a vicious dog, but I have forgotten them.

Monday, March 24, 2014

March 24, 2014

Cold morning. I woke cheerful, as one who has finally gotten enough sleep. One did so by retiring at 9. First run-through was late to start, and, all in all, horrific. I picked up all my cues and said all the cues that the next speaker needed, but realized that in places I had left out chunks of the middle of the speeches. In Act IV I missed a line because I had never said it, never even underlined it or knew it was there, the implication (and the truth) being that I had never rehearsed that scene until four days before opening. The kids look good, though, and much of it looks good when not stalled, the actors staring off into space trying to gather in the line.

Cantaria rehearsal better than that, though by then I was exhausted.

Wrote some in the morning. I know that because it was on the screen when I sat down.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

March 23, 2014

Costumes day at the theater, inevitably the most dramatic moments of the run, on or off stage. The costume queen arrives, late, darting rays of I’m-taking-no-shit-today around her, warning that it’s best not to cross her in any way until she’s had her coffee, and she hasn’t, and you want to ask why (she had to pass fifteen cafes on her way to the theater), but it’s one of those days where you do not ask for explanations. You try not to look at the dingy, ancient costumes too hard. You suggest that you have “just the thing” at home, where you know where it’s been and who’s had it on. You realize you’re fatter or shorter or paler or have weirder feet than anyone she’s ever dealt with, and she moves her hand over the racks, doubtfully seeking something so you don’t look like an idiot on stage. It has to be explained to you how to get a certain piece of old time apparel on. You say under your breath “never again a period piece. Always modern dress.” What fits in the shoulders will not button. You decide that your character would not button his jacket. You do not mention that the “white” shirt is tan with age and use. You change in the middle of the floor because there’s nowhere else. You model your costume, them staring, not knowing whether it’s approval or scorn or hatred or coma in their eyes. You note how each piece has been cobbled and reconstructed and refitted and the art behind the Costume will baffle and amaze you forever. Four shows ago it has passed the “throw the horrible thing away” stage in your mind, but here it still has life. The things which seem to have been approved you carefully hang on hangars and flee for the door, breathing in the fresh air, the gods’ own light. Costume day and tech day are the days I loathe in theater, probably because I have no idea what’s going on, what criteria are in play, and cannot contribute in the smallest way. I forget if I know anything as well as they know needle and thread. I hate changing clothes in my real life, and costume changes between scenes makes me weep. Doesn’t everyone wear the same thing every day of their lives?

After all that, planted a fig tree and a red hydrangea and four roses which had come in the mail and sat on the porch of 62 who knows how long (though not THAT long, for a expected them and kept checking.) Bought other plants which I did not plant yet, judging it too early. Moved the rest of the art from 62, some to the studio, some to the Riverside office (where I was caught by MM coming early to his class– I am now not anonymous) and some to this house, where they are yet to be hung. Thought I would write in the evening, but sank into You Tube and never emerged. The very thing I warn my students against.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

March 22, 2014

Mint tea and writing before dawn.

A black water beetle has joined Lawrence in his pond. I don’t know how this happens. Perhaps it was hiding in the waterlily pot.

Sending the Lincoln trilogy out. Why am I stuck on three? Why couldn’t there be four, ten, a library? I want to extend my scope, but American history is surprisingly resistant to the stage.

Friday, March 21, 2014

March 21, 2014

Spring was bright and cool in its entry. Planted two new tree peonies. Jasmine tea in the dark of morning. Rehearsal rough, but less rough than last night. Finished the revision of The Testament of Major Rathbone. Daffodils bright at 62. Stuart planted some, too, so I have them here. Still feel like a visitor here, or a man in an unusually personalized hotel room.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

March 20, 2014

Great moon sailing cross my yard at the first of spring.

Leg cramps at midnight from the two mile run, and my perpetual failure to stretch.

Disastrous rehearsal last night. Nobody knew their lines well enough for it to be the first night utterly off book. I want to say I sailed above the fray, but I did not.

Planted blue clematis against the west fence, so my place will be know as the Blue Fence.

The kid’s– his name is Quentin–testimonial after my lecture hit the Twitter pages and the Facebook site, “Overheard at UNCA.” One girl on Facebook gushed that it “totally made the lecture.” One tries not to be thin-skinned, but that idea is disturbing. That spontaneous nonsense should be more valuable to anyone than informed and– I thought– eloquent reason explains a lot about the state of American society and politics. Her comment was not that developed, by I carried it in my own head to the point where she cherished the outburst because she thought it refuted and humanized all that came before. Her hatred of reason was vindicated. The stoned bellow is set in the balance with the epic, and at least ties. Though I would agree that the outburst “made” the lecture in the same sense that a Satyr play “makes” a cycle of Greek tragedies. The school administration at certain levels got wind of it, through the nattersphere, and wrung its hands because Twitter kept referencing “a stoned student” did so-and-so and we’re worried that the world will take us for a den of stoners. Quentin’s friend is in my class and assured me he was stone cold sober. Just idiosyncratic. Just a little bit crazy, in what I thought at the moment was a kind of sweet way. I hugged him after it was over, to communicate “it’s all right” to one who could scarcely fail to have been mortified This made some people think I had put him up to it.

Alan has to keep his puppy home because “someone might be allergic and sue us.” It will be well when the biddyocracy at the institution is all weeded out.

However, after all that, I read this on my Facebook page:

I don't expect a response but I just wanted you to know....without trying to be creepy, I can honestly say you were the most influential professor I had my entire college career.  
The first time I was able to study with you was during my first semester of school for a humanities course. Coming from a very small, very southern Baptist town I had never been exposed to, well, anything.  At first I was terrified (I along with most of the class hadn't read the syllabus and you were not pleased) and didn't know how I would make it through class with you. But, when you spoke on religion, your travels, society, you opened my eyes to a world of possibilities. When I think back to my college experience I think back not just to the study abroad trip I was able to take with you and that I experienced so much during, but to my freshman year when my eyes were first opened and I am so very thankful.  You helped me become who I am.  I am now an elementary school teacher and I hope I can have even a fraction of the impact on a child's life that you had on mine. 
I have often wanted to write you a note to say thank you but never quite knew how. After seeing your post today about the lecture gone awry I knew I had to say something.  You have touched lives far beyond what you will ever fathom. Teaching is one of the most unappreciated professions in existence.  Please don't ever let it get you down. 
Thank you, thank you, thank you, you helped me grow up. You helped me become a more open hearted, open minded, caring, individual. 
I wish you all the best in everything you do and thank you for sharing your adventures on Facebook.

One of your biggest fans,
Sent from Rosman, NC

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

March 19, 2014

Ran two miles on the cross-trainer at the Y while running my lines. Makes me feel productive, and I go a long way without thinking about running. The desire is not to come off tonight the way Act III and IV come off, an agony of confusion and called-for lines. Some of the actors can barely get out a single speech. I try not to be provoked. I try not to look at my watch. I try not to think of the lines at the end of the acts that I have never said because we have never gotten to them. I try not to want to punch people in the face for having wasted their time and, therefore, everyone’s else’s. The kids never speak to me. I don’t know if it’s because I’m old, or because they’ve worked together and not with me before. I was on the other side before, I suppose, though I’ve never been much of a backstage schmoozer.

Aridity in general life. Cartons of plants appear on my porch. Planting them will give me joy.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

March 18, 2014

Looking back with some satisfaction on what was probably the roughest day of the weak, dared and done. The Humanities lecture was pretty well triumphant. At the end of it, one of my students came up to the podium and asked if he could clarify something. His blond hair. His wild eyes. I was actually delighted. Unfortunately, not one of his rambling sentences made sense. There was something about over-population, and something about having received his vision while high, but the rest was incomprehensible, even for an undergrad. The huge assembly was gallant and gave him a round of applause. I thought he had been rather brave. The consensus was that he was high as a kite. I suppose he was, but I wanted to think he was an oracle who had received the vision but not yet found the voice.  Excellent Tolkien class, then rehearsal that was not excellent. One does not want to mar the merry atmosphere by saying, “Let’s get down to business,” but someone should sometime. I was the only one who knew my lines (not that I have many near the end of the play,) and what with giggling and calling for lines it was 10 PM without having finished anything. I do like the people I’m working with. Some are accomplished young actors.

Rain yesterday on my new-planted trees.

My yard is being ploughed by moles. I rather like it. I like moles and am indifferent to yard.

Monday, March 17, 2014

March 17, 2014

Blessed Saint Patrick.

Waiting for a thumb drive to erase so I can copy the video for my lecture today. No guarantee that it will work, or that anything will work. Willing to bet that the first few things will not work, so that I must run wearily down the list of possibilities, so that maybe one, hours from now, will show promise.

Thumb drive inadequate. Find exterior hard drive. Computer does not recognize exterior hard drive. Fuss and poke. Computer recognizes exterior hard drive. Loading up now, I think. Maybe it is accomplished. We’ll know for sure when I am at the podium.

Good rehearsal last night. Certain persons were missing. Drinks afterward. We feed on each other’s despair. It’s actually funnier than that sentence would indicate.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

March 16, 2014

Nailed up the bluebird house, keep looking out the window in case they come in one day.

Painted some in the morning. A frustrated swipe across the paint gave me the key to finishing the painting the way it needed to be. Off to Reems Creek Nursery then. I was looking for a laburnum, but they have to special order that. I bought a sweet bay tree and a Stewartia pseudocamillia and planted them in the back. Digging for the Stewartia revealed an old brick fire pit, with several layers of black ash. I took the chance that the tree would like that. The clerk at the nursery said, “I remember you from last year. You look like you’ve lost a lot of weight. Are you feeling OK?”

“I’m feeling fine.”

“OK, so long as your health is OK.

Of course, I felt weak and peaked all day after that, looking into windows to see if I looked drawn.

Nap, during which I dreamed vividly (as I often do) of matriculating at a new university. I had auditioned my way into an elite musical ensemble, singing a new and tasking piece, but I couldn’t figure out when the rehearsal was. I’d go to the rehearsal hall, but nobody was there. Also, I had trouble with my eyes, and sometimes I could read the score, and sometimes I could not. I made a friend who wanted to ride bikes. He also was in the ensemble, so I thought if I stuck with him, all would be well. We rode our bikes for miles and miles across round pastel hills.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

March 15, 2014

Spring morning, chill, but subsumed in soft pastels. I can see from the high study window a shelf of gray clouds moving swiftly south.

Interesting Friday. I worked hard, and was boisterously productive, though there was an edge of rage under everything that boiled through in moments of quiet. Lunch with SS. I feel provincial when we get to the subject of theater. While he was in New York working with everybody and managing the Ridiculous Theater, I was in a field watching the flight of birds and coming home to warm my fingers and write my little poems,. I thought that would be best for me, and who knows for sure that it wasn’t? He and I have the same trait in that our self-image is different in certain measure from the world’s image of us. His idea to start a new theater is electrifying, though at the same time, exhausting. The Magnetic Field is gone; Flat Rock and NC Stage are teetering on the brink of insolvency, or over the brink, for all I know. I don’t ask about Montford’s finances, but no one seems to be complaining. My own little theater has been asleep so long I don’t know that it would be right to waken it. I don’t know how much ambition I have left, except, as I hurl at heaven all the time, do me justice. Yet I have always thought it would be paradise to write for a particular, excellent company, the way Shakespeare did.

After the merry lunch I went to 62 and–much quicker and easier than I expected– undid the water gardens. Kevin the frog was gone from his, moved on in either the ethereal or the terrestrial plane. I was happy that there was no little veil of frog skeleton. I was careful in emptying the others, too, but the tadpoles I put in either grew to maturity or otherwise disappeared. I came with a bucket, intending to convey Lawrence the Fish to Beaver Lake, but at the last moment– when I held him in my hand, ready to dip him from the muddy tank into the bucket–I sensed that our relationship was not over. He was silky and surprisingly warm, and unstruggling in my hand, as if he trusted me. So I moved his great tub to 51 and built him a mountain with places to hide, and filled it with water, and now we are together again in our new home. I am curiously grateful that I did this. I would have missed him. I am happy to go into the front yard and see his flash of solar orange.

The wind had opened the windows and the back door of 62. I tried to keep my mind off the astronomical utility costs, and think instead of the sweetness of the air. That house always smelled good.

Rose late today. Took the smelly water garden tanks, the ones I’ll no longer use, to the dumpster at Riverside.

Friday, March 14, 2014

March 14, 2014

Some mass for the soul of Dufay on the CD.

My cold lapsed yesterday and I was, thinking back on it, a ball of fire. I put together a book of poems, began a rewrite of Night, Sleep, made a short story out of a chapter of it, got a haircut, studied my lines, finished my lecture on myth for Monday, finished the power-point to go with it-- though I have no confidence that the last of that will work. Rick Chess helped me through my surprising ignorance of how that sort of thing works. The new cleaning lady came, and her passing, except that everything was cleaner, was undetectable, so that was well. The mouth of anguish opened in the first of morning, but closed almost immediately. I neither know nor will try to puzzle out why. The great Lord makes himself almost daily my enemy, and less than that, but better, my friend. Neither can that be puzzled out.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

March 13, 2014

Britten on the CD

Father’s birthday. He would have been 95.

Considerable snow flying in the air, though not much on the ground. The daffodils are blooming at 62.

A sparrow was caught in the upstairs landing at Phil Mechanic. She fluttered around for a while, but the she let me catch her in my hand and carry her to a window. She was gone in a second in the clear air.

Good painting yesterday. I finished a small fantasy for one of the new babies in the department, pale and bright giraffes representing day and night.

I have not failed; I have been defeated. This is a distinction I hope someone remembers on my behalf.

The powers cut about 45 minutes out of the Shaw. Judicious cuts, but very beautiful lines, for the most part. What a great playwright Shaw could have been had it not been all about showing off.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

March 12, 2014

First night off book.  It was too soon, and the limping round was probably not profitable. A stalked out at the beginning, saying he would not return until he was shown some respect. It looked to me like he had been refused a brownie from a batch somebody had provided, but that couldn’t have been the whole story.

Did some painting yesterday, smeared it out.

Rain on my newly planted plants.

Facebook reveals that New York GayFest is no more. Both a shame, and not.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

March 11, 2014

Not used to having colds: have one now. Thinking of the blind efficiency of the head as a snot-making machine. Waking hours ruled by Nyquil.

Delivered the cedar chest finally out to Phoenix Cove, and repented of my bitterness about the whole thing when I saw her true condition. Women who go on about the ease of living without men probably don’t live in the country. She had us carry great blocks of salt and lower them into a chute, to amend something called “iron water.” I’d never heard of that before. Much sacrifice for a beautiful vista.

I’m interpreting not getting any notes at rehearsal as a sign that I’m getting the character right, though it may be that I’m just beyond help. The director is good. Much silliness on the set, which wastes time but which has, I suppose, other value.

Crashed into bed, emerged from the covers slowly, reluctantly, a whining schoolboy with no school.

Monday, March 10, 2014

March 10, 2014

Sunday swallowed up by sleeping and singing– if I were a different person, a perfect life.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

March 9, 2014

Saturday turned out to be everything I’d hoped it would be. Rose early, wrote, made many trips to the Riverside (taking my old desk, there, dumping it twice on the street before finding the right way to pack the truck) went to the Studio and hoed the garden (it smelled sweet, for most of what I was hoeing was mint). Chatted with Jolene. When the stores were finally open I went to Reems Creek Nursery and bought a Magnolia grandiflora to indulge my taste for massiveness, and to protect the porch from the west. It looks handsome and eager there, taking in light from all directions except behind. I planted lilacs– two lavender, one white, in the northwest corner. Bought lilies but will not plant them until the weather is surer. Went to the antique shop and bought a set of shelves which completes my study and has, for once, more room for CDs than I have CDs. DJ came over and looked at the house, and then there was supper at Avenue M. Achy now in the best way. Didn’t look in the mailbox, didn’t check email, wanting to keep everything perfect.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

March 8, 2014

Stepped onto the porch and it was not overcast, as I thought it would be, but Venus was a blue smear high in the east. Almost sick with anticipation of the day. I will go to my office by the river. I will go to Phil Mechanic and hoe the garden so it is more beautiful when it blooms. I mus bring paintings down from the studio and hang them in my house. I will go to the garden store and see what I might acquire. It is a Saturday and I must do everything at once, sink down exhausted on the sofa before the light ends.

I wrote my first poem in this house last night. It is a good one.

Friday, March 7, 2014

March 7, 2014

Honorah Foah writes that The Birth of Color will be recorded in Budapest in June. I ask if I can sing in the chorus, which would be very cool. I look online for flights to Budapest, then, on the brink of committing, remember that this piece has been on the verge of going public three times. Last summer I was prepared for a premiere in Rome. Twenty years ago it was Chartres. I won’t buy my ticket yet.

I’m in every goddam act of Man and Superman, after Act II with only a few forgettable lines. That’s just bad playwriting. Besides, it means that I have to be at every rehearsal.  Before we start each scene there is a round of bantering and a ritualistic recitation out of the Monty Python movies. Sometimes it takes quite a while, and the three of us codgers narrow our eyes and wait for it to be over. One the other hand, the atmosphere is sweet and young and merry, and no one ever cries, as one almost might, “Let’s get on with it!”

Old skinny ashtray-smelling plumber comes to fix the second toilet. He explains in detail to me what went wrong. He reminisces about another UNCA professor he knew long ago– I know whom he means– who lived at such-and-such a place and who was a very nice man. The fragments that live after us–

I can see my last Ohio license plate from where I sit.

In the wintery days after I moved, I transplanted a few more peonies. But finally gave out, thinking that I should just buy more. The idea that Will will plow them under for grass torments me, but we’ll deal with it when it comes.  Today, in the hardware store for some other reason, I could not stop myself from buying a couple of elderberry bushes and four Trillium luteum. The house’s being yellow has set me on a course I may regret one day, but I see it surrounded by a field of gold. Planted the elderberries on the eastern edge of the yard. The earth is pebbly there, and I uncovered black plastic which I buried again without seeking the limits of. Don’t explore where you don’t want to know. It’s shady in the morning, but I think it will get sun in the afternoon. The elderberries I planted at 62 prospered in the half light under the sweet gum. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

March 6, 2014

Rehearsal better last night for me. I approach each character as thoughtfully as I can, reasoning out motivations, milking each line for meaning and nuance. This is not appropriate for Shaw, at least not for a character who isn’t the designated Shavian spokesman. The director said “you must be more like a cartoon,” which is all I needed. I hope I was more of a cartoon. He made some joke when I left that I thought radiated approval.

Wild romp with my students through the whole of Minoan, Mycanaean, Cycladic culture so that we might give one session to the Odyssey today. Snow blanked out China altogether. This is the program people wish to dilute with special topics and imposed “themes.”  I should have been scrappier throughout my career. It’s invigorating.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

March 5, 2014

Began yesterday with coffee (water, actually) with J, who works at Hiram now, and was a student there the year I taught. Much news and up-dating, and a few literary gifts, from the old home place. Hiram will always be a kind of lost home. Some of her news was more surprising. She knew Sheldon Lawrence after he moved to Akron, and reports that he had died of leukemia four years ago.

Rehearsals in the freezing shabby immensity of the Masonic Temple. Accused last night of channeling Burgess Meredith, whom I couldn’t imitate intentionally if my life depended on it.

Sparse attendance in poetry class. Everyone was off to a lecture by a transgendered actress.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

March 4, 2014

Return to school. Good Tolkien class. Humanities meeting in which the concerns I brought up before surfaced again, with a different level of support, and seem to have carried the day, or at least demanded a place in the day. The degree to which an experiment got out of the hands of the experimenters and our untenured colleagues felt threatened and compelled by the asst. provost became clearer. He thinks that bullying and talking loudly through meetings proves his point, and it does to those who have reason to be cowed. He assumes that the costly purging of his last academic bad idea is far enough in the past that he can start again. I never understood the timidity of the untenured. I don’t believe I was timid, but I also had Jeff Rackham looking out for me.

First rehearsal I was able to make of Man and Superman. The rest of the cast is quite good, and it will be a challenge. My memories stretch to the old days when a good cast was something one never could assume from Montford. Those days are gone. Great Jehovah, the lines! I feared my orgy of memorization, but my route is easy. Is Shaw considered a great playwright because he can put together excellent sentences? I don’t see how his plays, taken as a whole, radiate greatness. But there I am. The director wants me to be less sincere, more patronizing, and he is right.

Monday, March 3, 2014

March 3, 2014

Home with so little incident that I kept waiting for either shoe to drop. There was a delay, of course, but how else would we know we were flying United? Unpacking is a chore because I don’t remember where everything goes yet. Sleeping every minute on the plane has, somehow, not left me rested. I ate everything in Seattle. Time to cut back. Sudden stiff rain on the roof.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Seattle 4

March 2, 2014

Did my signing at the Ruminate table yesterday morning. It was fun, and some people bought the magazine when I asked them to. Liked all the Ruminate people, who respected me more than I had earned. Sat with a tall good looking guy who teaches Forgiveness at Gonzaga. You can major in Forgiveness Studies there, apparently. Went into a far corner of the bookfair and ran into Chris Tanseer, which made me happy. He smelled wonderful, aside from the progress he has made as a writer. One man cried my name and said he had read A Childhood in the Milky Way. That meant I had to buy a book from his table. The book was by a short stocky little guy who shouted his  poems from a chair, slam-style. Everybody was pleased with themselves. Something about the weekend made me sad, so though I went on line to buy a ticket to my waitress’ play, I couldn’t pull myself off the bed to go. Instead, made inroads in the minibar and fell asleep with the TV on. Woke to a dream in which I went back to Hiram, and was given a kind of nice shed to live in, but was trying frantically to find a phone that worked because I’d left England on the wrong day, and had to get back and retrieve my car. Freddy Dolittle was raking the grass, having taken a job as a groundskeeper there. He said, “Are we still friends?”  Then he asked if he should consider Ecology as his new major.  Phone conversation with L, where things are so dramatically catastrophic that I felt ashamed for feeling blue here over invisible things. Jonathan is getting married (not one of the catastrophes) in the wilds of Thailand. I do not think I’ll be able to go, so dependent am I on certain Western conveniences, like sit-down toilets, but I will contemplate it.

Seattle broke my writing drought with a vengeance. It has poured out of me.

Crying of gulls in the darkness outside my window.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Seattle 3

March 1, 2014

Email (indirectly, not to me) from a group of old friends who came to town for AWP: We did this and that all day long, and really wanted to go to Dave’s reading, but we were so hungry. Do you people not try their words out on themselves before they commit them to the air? It’s a shame food was not available at any time but that one hour.

Anyway, started yesterday with eggs benedict in the Versailles of a diningroom downstairs, then off to two sessions. The first, on “the poetic line” was the most BS I have ever consumed in a commensurate period of time. It was a little like the Republican party, the four over-honored participants making things up and convoluting simple truths as though there were no reality to compare to. It was insulting. It was what “ordinary folk” mean when they vilify academia. I was angry at the end. The second one, much better, dealt with writing from a faith community. People talked about real things there, though one woman warned us that she had “no filters” and proved that through the session by offering a wise crack at every sentence, one which contained either “fuck” or “mother fucking,” calculated, I suppose to exhibit her wild sincerity. She loves Jesus so much she can say motherfucker and it doesn’t count. Tried to find the bar Jesse recommended and failed, though I did get a tour of the eastern parts of the city. Did eat at a fish restaurant, where the waitress was an actress (surprise) and invited me to her play tonight, and I shall go, barring accident.

In the evening I took a taxi to Red Wood and figured out where I had gone wrong (I had gone wrong by not going far enough, which is often the case) Red Wood was a happy, familiar place, and most of the Asheville contingent to AWP and most of our emigres who landed in Seattle were there. Katherine brought her brother and her beautiful son. I had a good time. Oriented, I walked back to the hotel, having a glorious view of the night city the whole way.

I’m supposed to be at a signing this morning. I hope not everybody gets famished at exactly 10:15.

Giving myself anxiety over the snowstorm prophesied for Monday. No mater how often I resolve never again to worry about something which cannot possibly be helped, I worry anyway.

Wrote a short story at this table in this room in my down hours.