Sunday, August 31, 2014

August 31, 2014

Lovely rain in the night. It batters the roses, but makes better roses behind.  Spread much mulch yesterday, seeing that much more mulch than I have acquired will be necessary.

I thought I might go without getting myself a birthday present this year, but not. Found myself at Biltmore Antiques, where I found a large old desk with a green top. It “finishes” the downstairs in a way I don’t really expect a piece of furniture to do. Happy. The lady at the shop called me by name and told me that I had created a sacred space at the healing mass a year or so ago. I was glad I had, and hoped that my sanctity would reduce the price of the desk.

Fast, 2nd day:  as I have noted in the past, without the extreme effects you expect, or read of in books.

Lady in Facebook singing “the Lady of Shalott.”

Saturday, August 30, 2014

August 30, 2014

Voices on the street woke me before 3 AM. I thought they were closer than they were. I had been dreaming of travel. I had to ride my bike to an office to get a certain document, and somehow I forgot it there, and my dilemma was whether to go back and retrieve the bike or to go on to Scotland, which was my destination. Awake in the now-silent darkness, I wandered about some. I took the last night light from 62, which somehow in the tangle of undergrowth I had over looked. It gleamed starlike, and to it moth-like I went. My back yard under the dim smear of the Pleiades. It seemed sacred.

Woke with a hangover from having eaten nothing yesterday and finishing the evening with a bottle of grapey Italian white. Now that water and walking have dissipated the hangover, I feel terrific, cleansed and light. The swelling in my leg is down, and the pain in my knee gone, though that may have been Zach as well as the fast. I’ll fast again today if I can. I have typically been sloppy in my war on God, thinking a few threats and a rattling of spears would do it.

Sylvia Plath in Gary’s class yesterday. We noted how, almost alone of all literary figures, she cannot be discussed without discussion of her illness. That must be a kind of hell, if she knows about it. This class was inclined to pity, telling each other that suicide is not selfish nor–as I suggested in this case–passive-aggressive, but rather universally pitiable. Maybe. They certainly had the psycho-jargon to back up their arguments. When I read “Lady Lazarus” aloud, though, the hair stood up on the back of my neck. If we knew nothing about her, we would think her a greater poet than we do now with full morbid knowledge.

Adapted Tom’s book for the stage. It’s not very stagey, but it is poetic, so maybe that will float it.  Woke today thinking of the ways I had left it wrong last night. Moments from now come the revisions.

Conviction that I am traveling somewhere very soon– though I am not, unless my nerves know something I don’t.

Friday, August 29, 2014

August 29, 2014

Blessed the drop of rain that fell last night. The garden had at least a sip.

Begin a fast this morning.

The mowers knock the air conditioning unit awry. I haven’t used it all summer, so my distress is cosmetic.

Considered– wish I hadn’t– that in the negotiations for 62, after all the reductions and postponements corner-cutting and forgiveness and concessions and eight months of lost income, the ONLY advantage I was going to get was to have it over and done with, and that is the precise and single thing which has not happened. Minute sleeplessness over that.

Yesterday a day of learning from my students. I was wrong about Nietzsche. I hadn’t told myself the whole story about Donne. You go into teaching not to teach, but to learn. Today is my day off, but I sub in Gary’s class, on Plath, which I agreed to do because I felt I have been, generally, so much less collegial than my colleagues.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

August 28, 2014

Woke unwell. The whole bottle of Chilean Merlot after rehearsal was not a good idea. Came home with a colossal birthday brownie. Still sagging a little over the house. I don’t see why something can’t be as it was decided, as it was agreed to, as it was expected, even one time. While claiming to have no money at all, W nevertheless ordered a $400 inspection (without my knowledge), and on the basis of that asks for a reduction in the price of the house. I don’t care about the price, so much. I’m just bewildered that, after all that, he would ask. Had I inspected his credit, as I suppose was my right, the deal would seem even more absurd. I’ve tried to do the right thing; that doesn’t work so well when you’re the only party doing so. Longest day today. Can barely imagine putting on my clothes and walking out the door.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

August 27, 2014

Slept late. The cats were standing accusingly over their bowl. Good classes yesterday, one on the Bhagavad Gita, the other on Blake’s paintings. Meeting in the evening with W. I was sick with rage. Turns out he was sick with apprehension. After long, detailed (and overdue) explanation of his situation, I realized that the one thing I was determined, dead-set, frantic would happen–the signing of a contract–would not happen. Of course. I should have seen that from the outset. Nevertheless, everything else proceeds well enough, and they begin moving in this weekend.  If I actually see a mortgage (or is it rent?) check in my hand this week I’ll know that it turned out the way I think it did. Because of his dire financial situation, he is considering bankruptcy and cannot afford to have a visible asset, so we will proceed as though he’s renting from me. He does all repairs and upkeep. He says he is solemnly serious about wanting to own 62, and his sweat equity supports that. Renting a house with the renter responsible for everything, with the renter fixing the floors, re-painting, landscaping, doing massive repairs on his own dime, seems to me ideal, and so my rage ebbed away. He told his wife he was afraid that I was going to end the deal and throw them out. It crossed my mind, A little information earlier on would have kept me even from the thought. He said he is one who keeps his troubles inside. Not the right tack, in this case. I wondered what bravado led him to ask for all this. I respond well to such things, but it seems bold, now, beyond reason, considering that no legitimate lender on planet Earth would  take him on in the foreseeable future. I guess he had the measure of me. It is conceivable that I am being monumentally had, but I would know that soon enough, and the property is not only still mine, but brought into marketable condition without my lifting a finger. If I am good at anything, it is in going the way the Lord seems to be pushing, and even when that has gone awry, I haven’t cared much.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

August 26, 2014

Woke without having slept long enough. I think the disturbing silence of the night woke me. Last night a frog of wondrous loudness called from the near trees. I thought at first it was a siren.

I see no way Will and I can close this week. He swore he would come to see me last night, bit of course he did not, nor does he answer his phone. In all the negotiations, with my letting him into my property to do whatever he wanted without a red cent changing hands, with my foregoing a down payment so he could do that, with my paying the utilities and receiving no income from the property for eight months, the one and only thing I asked is that it all be finished by August. I almost wish I were the kind of man who could say, “all right, deal’s off,” and change the locks.

Sending out checks in all direction, supporting this and that good work, money to friends getting married faraway: I think I am that agency which channels my resources to others. I think at the moment that’s my only function.

Screw up in the Humanities schedule, which necessitates the explanation of same to every single individual student, as no one is listening when you give the explanation the first half dozen times. They are so worried about asking the question they don’t perceive it’s being answered.

Watched the Emmys last night. Wanted to stab the people who were going on about dresses. Bet I wasn’t alone.

You, allow me to love you.

Monday, August 25, 2014

August 25, 2014

Back to the choir loft. Back later in the day for Wiley’s reading. He read from his unpublished third book which, judged by the quality of the passage read, contains the best writing of all. Excellent attendance for such a thing. Leland said to me “You look radiant. Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.” I wish I knew what I was doing.

Hauled off to the Y, thinking that maybe shock would cure my aches and pains better than rest and coddling has been doing. Step aerobics, weights. Half an hour home from the gym, and it seems to be working.

I fear these glowering clouds do not promise rain.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

August 24, 2014

Far away in Cambridge Steve is now married.

I let a volunteer morning glory grow in my garden, though it kept getting bigger and entangling more and it never bloomed, so finally I pulled it up and threw its mass under a tree. Yesterday there was a shadow of blue under the tree. Uprooted for a week, the vine still bloomed, the beautiful azzura I’d hoped for when I first detected it.

Spent a chunk of yesterday sitting on my bench in the shade, reading, first Wiley’s second book for the discussion today, then a book out of my childhood, The White Panther, by which I was still mesmerized, though probably finding more fault than before with the author’s stylistic tics. All the pay-off for Wiley's new book is on the last page.

Painful spots on my legs, many a hot soaking and session with the Epsom salts.

The great white native hibiscus blooms ten feet above the back yard.

Finished the revision of The One with the Beautiful Necklaces.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

August 23, 2014

Rose late, the world already a kind of silver.

DJ and my student Sam and I attended NC Stage’s Pericles last night. I’d seen it decades ago in Cambridge, and remembered it being strange and magical. That it is strange and magical continues to be the case. The production was energetic and, as ever, skillfully acted. The same director ruined certain others of essays into Shakespeare by importing, in an arbitrary way, his own whimsey. In this work that was exactly the right tactic. Fear that you might remain unengaged disappeared in minutes. Yet the show never quite decided what kind of magical world it was presenting, and austere beauty alternated with contemporary references and– I used the world before–whimsy, at times an incongruous and self-referencing silliness-- a mish-mash that comes from not quite trusting either the text or your own original vision. But at no point did I find this affecting my enjoyment, only my judgment. I could hear and understand every word; I appreciated that. For some reason I remember the stage as colorless, as though the show meant to be in black and white, but I don’t trust my memory fully on this. Sam was mesmerized and happy, and that was the salvation of everything, indeed if anything needed to be saved. He kept thanking us for letting him tag along, when we should have thanked him for sweet and merry company.

I kept blessing yesterday for being Friday, when it seemed like Saturday, and I have a whole full day of weekend I wasn’t expecting.

Friday, August 22, 2014

August 22, 2014

Hot upstairs before dawn. I’m too idle to go turn the fan on. First week of class survived. Not just survived, but enjoyed, mostly for the cheerful and forward quality of my students. One is going with us to Pericles tonight. The kids seem friendlier than they have in recent times.

Meeting with SS about to renascent Magnetic Theater. Talking with him shames me concerning all those times when I had the idea to “start a theater” without really considering how much labor it is. He has considered that, and even hearing about it is a little exhausting. I HAVE run a theater on next to nothing, but it was a vagabond and now-and-then operation. I’ve wasted the world’s time when I have done anything but create. Somehow I continue to hide that truth from myself. He seems ready to do Washington Place in a coming season. I’m glad. That play means a particular thing to me. It, along with a couple of others, represents a work I believe can be popular and yet also satisfied me creatively, upholding my conviction that those things need not be at odds.. It was also written in four days.

I thought I had ordered four roses but apparently I had ordered eight. They sat on  my porch in their shipping boxes until I could take them out last night after school, and get them–suffering many a mosquito bite–into the ground. Watering as night fell. I think that’s enough roses for a while.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

August 20, 2014

The cyclamen I planted in February bloom. The pink turtlehead, one a transplant from 62, one new-bought, bloom. The sky is a Chinese blue plate, without a mark on it. I had not realized I have only one class Wednesdays, late in the afternoon. I wallow in the unexpected time, write, water, nap, write. I worry about the exhaustion at the end of the day. If I could just get to the gym, it might be better.

Suddenly heard my mother’s voice from the deeps of time.

Me: “I need shoes for gym.”

Her: “Why can’t Jim get his own shoes?”

Every time, year after year. I would have missed it. I miss it now.

Thinking about it, Will has had his way in every aspect on the house exchange, delaying what I wanted to have timely, ignoring my messages until it was convenient for him to answer, having the site for a price a realtor would laugh at. The fact is, I don’t care. But I think sometimes that I should have cared about things I didn’t. Plus, the bother he is saving me IS something I would have cared about, so perhaps all things come out even.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

August 19, 2014

First day of school past, second impending. What is to be observed is exhaustion that led to a late afternoon nap from which I could barely arise before going to bed. Whatever I’d planned for the evening faded away. Good playwriting students–the biggest class ever. Eager Humanities students who had the benefits of my fulminations on Myth. What would I be thinking if I were they? Hints of strife in the drama department, hints that the administration digs its old tench deeper by, perpetually, siding with the worse cause against the better. Blessed rain yesterday. Oh Lord, watch over me, that when I am becoming an old fart, I am the first to know it!

Monday, August 18, 2014

August 18, 2014

First day of class. I move forward in the dark of the morning under the illusion that everything is done and ready. Productive Sunday. . . productive Saturday before it. Though my new computer has apparently been invaded by malware at the very outset. The seven foot swamp hibiscus I transplanted from 62, and which I knew to be red in its original place, has bloomed white as snow.  I will write this down in the miracle column. Another walk under the great canopy of dark

Sunday, August 17, 2014

August 17, 2014

Rose before 4, walked the streets. Half a moon remained, shedding pale rainbow on the clouds around it. The service stations leave their canned music on at night. Ingle’s was playing Motown that could be heard across the street. The Gulf station played a sort of classic-informed jazzy piano . Exxon is silent.

Found a new way into The Beautiful Necklaces.

Handel on Spotify.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

August 16, 2014

The screen to my all-in-one desk top went out, though the computer itself was still alive. Tried everything I knew, and then, despairing, I downloaded my files from Carbonite onto a laptop so I might keep on working. After four hours of downloading, I found that I was locked out of the file into which the documents ad been downloaded, and blocked by the computer from changing the sharing or security parameters of the file. “You do not have the right to do this.” I downloaded onto ANOTHER lap top, thinking it was an issue with the machine. Finally I figured I should have hit “download” rather than “back up.” Usable files did appear, but very laborious to re-save and use. I could not buy a new screen for the old computer (nowhere to plug it in) so finally I bought a new computer, onto which Owen transferred the necessary files, and into which I have been pouring the files and programs that could not be restored in that way. In short, two days of rage which amazes me, now, for its ferocity. The conviction that everything would turn out well did not, somehow, mollify me. I reminded myself of my father in his last days of paranoia and blind will. Must work on that. Must understand why I think the world will listen when I tell it, “Do not test me here.”

Lovely party at Russell and Maria’s to celebrate progress on their home. I was not feeling well, and almost sagging from exhaustion. Maybe it was two days of rage.

Attended the pointless but harmless faculty meeting. Enjoyed sitting with my colleagues.

Planted gentian, acanthus, a royal fern.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

August 14, 2014

Buttery yellow morning. The moon has not yet let go his reign. My first reader doesn’t like Lexington Tract, and that leaves me with the old question– begin the campaign, or go on to something else and not bother. It’s too embarrassing to pump someone for details about their impressions of or work–it comes off as begging for a compliment even more often than it is–so I don’t know what problems there are. I re-read it before the light, and like it, and can’t understand why someone wouldn’t, but of course I would. The style seems to me to get a lot of work done quickly–maybe that’s the problem? Anyway–

Last day before school sets in for well and good, me churning toward the completion of my syllabi. Syllabi are, at the last, a bad idea. They insure the class goes in a way it might not have gone had everything been organic. I get in trouble every semester for adapting mine to the flow of things: students interpret this as being disorganized.

Frantic calling of birds. They sense this is going to be their day.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

August 13, 2014

Dazzle of moon. Two hours wrestling with the university computer connections. Spent. Came home and transplanted a rose, drank a drink, lay down. A first autumn day.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

August 12, 2014

Dazzling moon. One pretends one is gazing at it for reasons other than taking out the garbage.

Planted the four English roses that came in the mail while I was gone. Rain came even as I finished.

Intestinal atmosphere still a little odd, bit otherwise I seem to have come out the other side of the fever.

Cats asleep on either side of my desk as though we hadn’t all risen up half an hour ago. Complicated dreams: I was either the friend of a son of the house, or a plant set by the police, on an immense country estate, the red-neck kind rather than the aristocratic kind. There were sheds and bits of trucks strewn about, and lots gunplay, but also an great mown hillside, and pond everywhere with ducks or frogs, as though those two creatures had divided the mountain between them. I was sat down for a list of rules and regulations by the patriarch, now that I was “going to be part of the family.”  It was mostly about loyalty, and I was divided in my mind about whether I should buy into it all or maintain a critical distance.

Monday, August 11, 2014

August 11, 2014

Waking in the truly impressive quiet (in comparison to 46th Street) of my home. Maud has just now lain down on my feet, forgiving me for my absence. Before, she huddled far across the room, glaring. Flight home two hours late, but I suppose that a minimal inconvenience. Between JFK and Charlotte, an attendant calling herself “the Luggage Nazi” stood at the door berating and exiling those who came in with more than two pieces of carry-on. Necessary, I suppose, since luggage charges make everyone try to carry everything on, and the overheads fill before the last couple zones are even called. I sprung for first class, so, cruelly, I didn’t care. If you had three she made you leave the plane until you combined them or discarded one. She took no excuses. Like all purists, she made self-righteous mistakes. If a mother were carrying her children’s bags, she would be stopped and those bags had to be distributed to the babies to carry on, lest anyone thing someone was let on with more than the limit. A woman carrying the bag of her disabled friend was not even allowed to say that, as the attendant kept shouting “I know, I know, everyone’s special, but you have to leave the plane until you–“ The crippled woman finally staggered out of her seat to retrieve her bag. The Luggage Nazi was a most fiercely attentive hostess throughout the flight. A coronary has her in its sights.

Some things didn’t get said before I left the City. Watching Adam’s Twelfth Night was a joy to me for reasons outside the quality of the production. It was exactly the theater I want to make, and have made, and there it was, triumphant. It was affirmation. I have been right about theater, about art, the whole time and, rage and despair and futility notwithstanding, I have never left the path. I am that son in the bible who defies his father’s authority but does his father’s will. The play must be the best thing in the production. It must be so unassailably great that the cast says, “How can we possibly live up to this?” rather than, which is far more usual, “how can we make this mess live?” No new play I have seen on Broadway has really been worth the effort. Several I have seen off or off-off have. The professional stage is afraid of greatness, if frantically in love with familiarity. It all made me contemplate “professionalism,” so called. I have to think of a better name for this, but I’ll use “professionalism” now to indicate the luster that goes onto things when they have passed through the “process,” when they have been “developed,” when the show is “tight,” when everyone hits his mark with the correct angle of cheat toward the audience, the right warble in the right place on the high note, the brave smile, the actor’s posture, the shimmer-in the-eye of the Professional Stage. Is “professionalism” really what one must do to cover up the inadequacy of the material? Not one glimmer of “professionalism” in Twelfth Night: they had a tiger and they ran joyfully beside it.  “Professionalism” is part of what made Atomic even creepier in its failure (being so good and so bad at once), and what has made for my last dozen Broadway disappointments. I don’t want to hear myself praise sloppiness or bad preparation, for that makes crap too, but I want for the material to be up to the level of the actors doing it, and if it isn’t, ask them why they bother. A slob in a silk shirt is still a slob. (Broadway! You should stop dating slobs!) In production, I want the grip to be loosened a little, for that which dares accidents and mistakes allows visitation and inspiration. I want the word “holy” to replace “professional” as the thing a company aims for, and if that is harder, then it is harder, though I expect that in some ways it is easier, and consists of getting out of the way of your own best impulses. I’ve dwelt on actors, but producers and directors are the worse perpetrators of “professionalism,” and after them, playwrights, who (often rightly) imitate what we see. I am old and tired. If this is a challenge I am meant to take up in any degree exceeding what is already the case, the Almighty is going to need to intervene. More energy, more money, more tolerance for the glad-handing I know is so necessary but which I could never bring myself to do.  More insight into the souls of the, say, two students a decade who really hear what is being said.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

New York 3

August 10, 2014

Went to bed hours earlier than one is meant to in New York, which means I rise not only rested but with hours of luxuriant dreams behind me, some of them quite intentional.

Made the taxi driver let me off a mile short of my destination so that I could wander the Village, of which I have a deal of memories, most of them fleeting and ghostly, some of them not at all. I sat in the Starbucks on Bleecker across from Our Lady of Pompeii (what a name!) And wrote, and thought about things. The café was the temple of men, all the workers, all the patrons men, for a while. Everyone wore white t-shirts; the walls, though not actually black and white, gave off that impression; the light from Our Lady of Pompeii coming in a white glare through the window. The men were bent over their laptops, (and I over my diary) tapping out the scripts and novels that will disappoint  women in time to come. The women came then in pink and stripes.

Met Matt, caught up with each other’s lives, and went in to see the Essential Theatre Co’s folk-song rendition of Twelfth Night, starring (to me) Adam as Feste. The production was, in Peter Brooks’s phrase, holy. The set was two ladders with a string of lights between them. The costumes could have been picked up in a thrift store. And yet every moment was miraculous and revealing. I’ve been in the play, and yet it was like I had never experienced it before. It was as if it had never before been performed, and every gesture was a discovery. I felt as if I were an alien, or a god,  looking at mankind, seeing how badly they use their gifts, how reflexively they make the wrong choices, how pig headed, how silly in love, how venal and fearful they are, and yet loving them with my whole heart. It was one of those times in theater– Playboy at the Abbey, The Tempest at the Globe–when I wept with gratitude that things should be so perfect. And Shakespeare goes up, if that were possible, in my regard. His wisdom is the shivering of a silver curtain. His compassion almost cannot be spoken of. Who would have guessed laughter is a kind of compassion? And Adam became a New York Actor in one stroke. All the acting was excellent, so there was not “better” or “best,” but I would pick him and the boy who played Antonio out as the ones with golden roads ahead. I was so proud of him I didn’t know where to look.

A girl I sang with in The Asheville Lyric was Maria.

Matt and Adam and Adam’s friend Will and I retired to the Bonnie Vee near the Bowery (a bar with a military theme) for drinks, and then I hailed a cab to the hotel, and had just enough time to ready myself for Naked Boys Singing at Theatre Row. Though I feared worse, Naked Boys Singing was lighthearted and rather sweet, despite crowd-pleasers such as “I Beat My Meat.” Nakedness is hard to interpret as anything but innocence.

Did finish the evening at the Rum House, though my illness necessarily dropped the usual level of debauchery. Would love to have another day here.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

New York 2

August 9, 2014

My body protested pretty hard by the end of the day the day’s activities, but it bore me through. Made first for a special destination, the coffee kiosk at the edge of Columbus circle, where during each sojourn here I sit in the leafy dapple and write and observe the passing show. The coffee kiosk is now an information booth for Central Park, but I did sit at the metal table, keeping it from careering about by setting my foot under one of the legs, and write. The little brown sparrows– all female, it is to be noted-- fluffed through the dust and begged from the Scandinavian family beside me, who had brought their own enormous muffins. Toddled to Lincoln Center and bought a ticket to Handel’s Acis and Galatea, which has been turned into opera-ballet by Mark Morris and Company. Wandered about, then staggered back to the hotel and slept for a good three hours while the slant and brick-reflected light shone gray on my window. It was a perfect day. I could feel that even in my sleep.

Gave myself plenty of time to get to Lincoln Center in the evening. Part of the peregrination was to MOMA to see if it was open. It was, and teeming with young people. I suppose it’s a Friday evening thing to do. It made me happy to see, to be amid. Drawn as if by enchantment to the café, where I had a salad I didn’t eat and a couple of drinks, and sat at the window beside a girl who was being fiercely harassed by the old man sitting on the other side. She was up for the night from Hoboken. She was a target because she was Chinese-American and the man was himself of Asian extraction and had been to China in the 60's on a bicycle trip, every detail of which he remembered. He asked for her number. She wrote down a number, but I hope to God it was a fake one. He sang her a little song. He invited her to come swing dancing with him. All the while, she was just trying to eat and read her Kindle book. She was very, very patient. The man asked what she was reading, and she said it was a book about Scientology. There was a young lady at the crossroads.

My seat for the ballet was among the gods, the 4th circle, and it was not easy to get there on my ravaged legs, nor would it be easy to get down. The elevator was full of old people and frustratingly slow, and I willed to do the stairs. The building is beautiful. That high up (and that cheap) attracts eccentrics, so I was surrounded by old women dressed like schoolgirls and old men with tiny lights they could train on the libretto– forgetting, perhaps, the superscripts over the stage–and old women with their day’s shopping strewn around them. I took the seat I had because it was on an aisle where I could stretch my left leg a little. The music was Handel at what I suppose was his most crowd-pleasing, messed with by Mozart who replaced oboes with clarinets and recorders with flutes, both mistakes. The choreography was oddly literal, very pastoral, as called for by the libretto, everybody in flowing green skirts and the men bare chested, to a nice effect. It was not abstract, but rather illustrative. One doesn’t expect that, but it enabled the funny parts to be funnier. What could people have been thinking when the first watched this centuries ago? The libretto is idiotic, but that, of course, was the point, to deliver a version of love nobody in the house had ever experienced, to allow them to think there was some purity of love, some poetry of love still undiscovered and, by their likes, undiscoverable. Is this not the use of pastoral? The tenor Acis was tubby and unheroic (his voice was lovely) and when the strapping baritone Polyphemus strode on, bragging about being huge and godly, one wondered what woman in her right mind wouldn’t prefer him. Perhaps this was a twist Handel didn’t anticipate; perhaps it wasn’t. In response to his challenge, Polyphemus kisses Acis on the mouth (one assumes he is used to people adoring him and he hasn’t been listening, so he assumes that’s what Acis wants), and Polyphemus is made to have equal interest in the nymphs and swains. In this production–since there were bodies but no props– Polyphemus kills Acis by throwing a girl at him. The chorus of nymphs and swains have to remind Galatea that she can bring Acis back from the dead. Was she thinking “Well, he was sweet, but the rich weightlifter wants me bad enough to kill for me–“ and in the most unconvincing passage in theater, she brings Acis in an instant back from the dead, his white sash indicating he is now a god. Polyphemus disappears, I suppose to get the house cleaned up in time for Odysseus. I loved it.

The walk back home, through physically grueling, was a sensual delight. Tout le monde. Drinks at the hotel bar cured–or convinced me they had cured–what ailed me. Instant dead sleep. Before morning dreamed of being part of a crew who had to set up an immense factory. I was an artist, and my painting was somehow part of what the factory made.

Friday, August 8, 2014

New York

August 8, 2014

7th floor of the Paramount, looking out, as is my custom, on the wall thirteen feet away.

The assumption yesterday was that I could travel sick as well as sit home sick. This turned out to be an error. Actually being on the flights was OK– I slept– but the tribulation of the airports was magnified. At Asheville I was stopped, pulled to the side and patted down because of a jar of cold cream. “It was registering one of the substances were trained to detect,” says they.
“No it wasn’t, “ says I. They looked at least momentarily flummoxed at the contradiction. What I meant was, it’s hard to take anyone seriously who hits the panic button over a jar of cold cream.

The taxi ride from JFK to Times Square was longer than the flight from Charlotte, and Khalifa, my driver (whose skin was so black it shimmered rainbows) chattered the whole time on his phone in a language which seems to have no individual words. He must have been talking about travel, for the individual words I did pick out were Italy, Paris and Senegal. The infection settled somewhat in my urinary tract (I think) and so every pothole was jarring. It was good to be in New York, and I was glad theater tickets did not allow me to huddle in my tiny room and sleep, as I wanted to do. Early, of course, I stopped at Dave’s Irish Pub on 9th and had a cider. Felt comfortable there. Once I was in, I remembered I probably do the same thing every time I come to Theatre Row.

I went to the Acorn on Theatre Row to see Atomic, a musical about the Manhattan Project. Though heroically performed, it was flawed in ways that I would think someone could have told the authors before it got this far. It didn’t decide whether it was about an event or a person (Szilard, not the intuitive choice) until far too late. It relied overmuch on an audience’s engagement with nuclear physics, but when it departed from that into an intimate or personal moment it was false and sentimental. The actors were forced into innumerable bellowing tutti, I suppose to inject excitement that was not in the material. Manufactured excitement is boring, The show had one great and hilarious character in Enrico Fermi, but dropped him as soon as he did his lovely number about concupiscence. The set was glorious. Randy Harrison, the blond boy-lover from Queer as Folk played Teller, about whom there could be another whole story. He and all the actors acquitted themselves as nobly as they could.

The theater was on the third floor, and I was amazed how weak and tired I felt climbing. Even rising up to let other audience members to their seats was so taxing I went and stood by the wall until I was sure everybody was in. The walk home after theater, which I normally love, was all about getting there. Last night’s sleep was without hallucinations, and the one dream I had–that my computer had been stolen from my office at school– was mundane. At waking I don’t feel 100%- let’s say 75%. I’m glad my room is small and dispiriting, so there will be no temptation to stay here all day.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

August 7, 2014

In terms of the fever phantasmagoria in my mind, last night was the worst ever. Pain and heat tossed my body. I was surrounded by objects full of infection, infected tables and pins and cloths that all had to be flushed free of the disease before I could be. Closets and bureaus were full of things that had brought on the disease before. I pulled those out, investigating them, trying to discover what it was and who was trying to hurt me so terribly. Someone was in the room with me. He had been sick like that in the past, and he was trying to talk me through the process of cleansing the objects. I rose at midnight and drove to the store to get grape juice, because I felt my bowels were blocked and grape juice always helps with that. I believe that really happened. Fitful, fantastical sleep. . . then waking into a room where there was nothing like what I had wrestled with all night. I looked for the objects which were so vivid. . . . which had such histories in my brain. In four hours I am supposed to be on a flight to New York. Can I do it? The delusions might be gone, but the sickness isn’t, and I can feel the fever rolling off of me. Now, as ever, the Almighty is a piece of work. One bird singing in the dark.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

August 6, 2014

The infection came on me late last night. Since it doesn’t attack my legs exclusively anymore, I don’t always know that it’s coming, but come it has. It’s feverish and disorienting and soporific and achy rather than agonizing, so I am grateful for that.  It presents as a urinary tract infection; I don’t know how accurate self-diagnosis is, but it sure is fast. Praying for recovery by tomorrow so I can make it to New York without staggering around there in a daze. Called to the optometrist despite my ailment, where my “new” glasses were delivered to me, this time, so far as I can tell, right. Sleep overcomes all desires.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

August 5, 2014

Odd, when you come to a file of writing of which you have no recollection. You must have written it. It sort of sounds like you, but you can’t remember ever setting these particular words together. You read it over and over trying to understand why it was abandoned.

Rose in the utter dark of morning, before birds, starless, moonless, the sky a low lead ceiling.

Thinking of the fish pond in the graveyard you could get to by crossing the Cuyahoga at my old Nature Day Camp. Thinking of our part of the river. Do all those kids remember it? Me? I thought I remembered lying on one of the rocks in the river having sex, but then I knew it had been a fantasy, grown, if anything, more vivid with the passing of time. The Indians had split a great oak into three, to tell them where to portage their canoes.

Bought tickets for Theater Row on 42nd: one for a musical about the Manhattan Project, one for Naked Boys Singing. I got a front row seat for the latter, so the full horror might descend upon me.

Monday, August 4, 2014

August 4, 2014

Woke to dreams which I recognize as the longing for travel.

Community meal last night, featuring community dread of totally voluntary tasks looming ahead. What is it that we really want? I know what I really want, and other things, however pleasant on their own, are a distraction or an irritation. Fate is passive-aggressive, offering what it knows is not required and then recoiling with a hurt expression when the gift is not fully appreciated.

Copper and brazen sky. Much rain was promised, and some fell to the south, but none fell here.

In the lines I just typed there were 19 errors that I had to go back and edit, 19 typos. I say there is a ghost in the machine.

Worked some at the All Souls Crafts Fair yesterday. Pleasant just to sit on the shady porch. I bought an iron butterfly to hover over my garden. Zach and Karen brought their baby to church.  In Thomas’ sermon, he said that God needs us to fight him, as Jacob did. If so, this is my salvation.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

August 3, 2014

Without having intended to, doubled the size of the front garden yesterday. I woke from a nap in the mood for digging, I guess, but the impetus was that I have ordered four important roses, and the roses in the backyard–where I meant to put them–are not doing well. Some fungus might be in the soil. Brother mockingbird came to gobble up the grubs as I tossed them from the edge of my spade.

I was feeling great this morning. But an email from Will that his mother-in-law has broken her leg and “thrown family plans into question” chills the future of 62. I feared that things were going too smoothly. The one request I had–in a field hazed and thronged by his requests– that we sign the agreement in a timely manner, would have cut the panic of this moment. I am trying to keep despair to one side.

As I dug the garden I was, curiously, thinking hard about the university, and my current disappointment with its course, at least the course of the Humanities program. As we fought dumbing-down at our level, we forget that it was being casually enforced everywhere beneath us, so we are now hiring a crop of academics who were never taught the difference between taste and judgment, who were allowed to think that the fragment was equal to the whole if we loved it enough. To say to some of my younger colleagues “X or Y is necessary for a responsible education” is to be met by a blank stare or an insolent smirk. The idea that one thing is more important or prior or more useful than another is a sort heresy. Thus, time is lavished on confetti and ornament (or the minuscule issue we wrote our dissertation on) while the structure is ignored– the idea of structure or priority being, of course, patriarchal. But what I was mostly thinking about was why this makes me angry. What is my anger about? If it’s about the insolence of certain popinjays in the program, I’d best let it go now. If it’s about the truth of the academic enterprise– well, is that served by anger? I do fear for the fate of the young people put in our charge, that we are reinforcing rather than parrying the deficiencies of our time. We are serving self-indulgence rather than correcting it, serving narrow and inward vision rather than correcting it, serving solipsism rather than correcting it, serving abbreviated attention span rather than enlarging it, honoring the obsession with the small, personal, and immediate rather than opening doors into a wider world. We lie and misrepresent in order to sound up-to-date. We mouth the shibboleths and the truisms of the moment without turning on them the critical thought we pretend to espouse. Like our students, we would rather take the easy way than the right way. They have no one to show them a higher path, and to obscure our indolence, we insist that “higher” does not exist.

There, I am angry again. I will listen to the catbird crying in my bamboo thicket.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

August 2, 2014

Watering, when din in the air made me look up. A peregrine falcon brought a starling down in the yard. She spread her striped wings and fought the bird while other starlings mobbed the scene. Finally she let go, and the lucky starling zoomed past my head into the hollies. Then the falcon went above the great pine, circling and circling, majestic even if hungry.

Mary Grant is our new chancellor. Her photo from her old job is pretty. Other than that, it means nothing to me yet.

Curious, rather dark dreams, all of which seemed to have done with concealing or destroying documents, with trying not to be found out. My waking conscience is clear; I must have done something seamy in the unconscious.

Thought from time to time in the night of the falcon slumbering wild-eyed in my pine tree.

Friday, August 1, 2014

August 1, 2014

Talked briefly with my house cleaner yesterday. She cancelled last week and moved it to this week because “something came up.” I was going to fire her, but in the end I was too inert and said nothing. Find out that her son got a sudden lucky appointment with an autism specialist. He has Asberger’s. Prayed thanks that, this time, I did not make an ass of myself. Watched a DVD that began with a girl getting drunk and wiping out an entire family in a car accident. Prayed thanks never to have done that, too. Always something to be grateful for.

Did some nervous planting yesterday: that is, gardening I had not planned but needed to fill in a space that might otherwise have been given over to anxiety. Tubs with ferns in them, like in the garden magazines.

The front of 62 looks sensational, I must admit, after Will cleaned the retaining wall.

T is writing country songs on the basis of emotions he does not have and experiences that are as foreign to him as the man in the moon, aiming at what “sells.” I try to reason him out of it, but can hardly base my authority on my own success.

DJ is the first reader of The Lexington Tract. Claims to like it.

Ventured a comment on the current Palestinian crisis. Many of the responses were reasoned and informative. Some of the responses were emotional and declarative. Realized during the reading that it was a matter of character, that some will be evidence-driven and others emotion-driven always and no matter what.