Sunday, February 28, 2016

February 27, 2016

Mediocre day at the studio, though I redeemed what was at first amiss. Saw at play at UNCA about the Los Angeles riots of 1992. It did not compel. It was not well done, but saying that I add immediately that it’s exactly the kind of thing that a department like ours should be doing. Maybe it could not have succeeded, however well done. Art can reveal truth or be itself the truth, but it is a poor vector for making a specific or deliberate political point. Plays used or created as arguments or indoctrination never work, however noble the intention. Though having said that, the intention to force a work of art to function other than as itself is never noble, but a kind of usurpation, or at best a fatal misunderstanding. Changing the gender of a character to make a point is always wrong and always fails in everything but making that particular point. Grinding the corners of a play to make it fly to a specific target is always ruination, even if the target is achieved. Plays about real events work when they are plays, maybe, but never when they are a pastiche of voices taken from the actual event. That is something else. That is a re-hash of a news broadcast, at best a reminder, at worst a parody.
The new chancellor and the new provost are now attending events at the university such as play productions, which is a palpable and laudable improvement over recent memory.

February 26, 2016

Chat with T over coffee at the High Five. He has been working on a script for twenty years, and when he receives a critique, he rewrites, landing each time further from his original conception. He long ago stopped writing from the heart and began to seek the trade secret, the popular incident or tone that would get him past the gatekeepers. Then he wants me to tell him why what worked for them is not working for him. I cannot tell him where to turn. When neither purity not calculation works, what road is to be sought? Of course, someone hearing me would hear the same words, the same tone, though I am canny enough never to seek advice. I am at once my own worst and best critic.

February 25, 2016

Torn over whether I should be ashamed at the way I allow exterior things to determine my course, or furious with the world for its perversity in maiming those things so predictably, so gratuitously. Whole days go by in which not one single thing goes well, and in which several things go worse than anyone could have expected. I am not the variable, but the victim. I do let myriads go, but after a certain point it is not well to let the universe think it is doing justly, or even sanely. All bullies must at last be confronted, and if I knew how to confront this one– beyond roaring under my own roof like a speared bull-- I would do it.

February 24, 2016

Trouble with my Android (which could have been solved by pressing the start button, which I did not recognize) drove me early evening to the Mall, where the phone boy (Jesse) solved my problem in the twinkling of an eye. To calm myself down, I had coffee at the Barnes & Noble café. The café was peopled by retarded adults being patiently read to, or coloring with deep concentration in their coloring books, each petal a different paradisal and unblemished color. It did calm me down. It made me ashamed of the pointless turbulence which seems to mark my days.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

February 23, 2016

The house sale saga drags on and on, heading toward its 26th month. When someone says, “I’ll sign this by such-and-such a time” or “I’ll bring the papers by tonight,” I expect that will happen, or if it doesn’t, that I have been subjected to a lie and a betrayal. This is clearly not the case with my counterpart. What does he think? A promise or an agreement to him seems merely part of a wide flux of possibilities, which he may or may not honor, and may alter without notification. Not one single item between us has gone according even to W’s schedule. Long ago I stopped suggesting deadlines, knowing he would ignore them in order to make sure he was in control. This much he admitted himself. But how does missing your own deadlines indicate control? You are above even yourself? Every day the attorneys send me something new to sign or initial, necessitated by the changing wind’s of W’s fortune. Everyone agrees the terms are madly favorable to him, and yet he keeps working every angle. Nothing can turn this into a good memory. My rage is out of proportion to the moment, but not to the history of the exchange.

Some painting, disappointing at first, but good before I left the studio. Retired almost mad with frustration, on all fronts.

Monday, February 22, 2016

February 22, 2016

Byrd in church, then Cantaria. Working hard on a revision of The Falls of the Wyona.
H takes it as scientific fact that the pyramids were built in 30,000 BC and were originally a kind of battery for making energy. All discussion of that pretty much stops there.
Long dream of wandering through Ireland. I bought a diving tank along the roadside, and carried it through yellow fields all the way to Sligo. I was sitting in an outdoor café in Sligo gloating over my good fortune in scoring the tank when the dream ended.
Trip to the studio to save Lupe, who had locked his keys inside. For five seconds on the phone you think of every excuse not to go, but in the end you know you must go.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

February 21, 2016

Saturday was one of those days that makes me feel I should retire, for it was so full and calm and accomplished. Would every day be like that if I retired? Early morning writing at home and at the High 5, breakthroughs in both theater and fiction. Then off to Depot Street for a self-guided tour of the new studios I had not yet seen. Then up to my own studio to paint until the throbbing in my shoulder was too great. Not much more than half the day was used up, and I had accomplished mightily. A children’s play was running in the Magnetic. I listened for a moment, glad I was not a parent, for that moment was enough to set my nerves on edge. Good for eight year olds; bad for me.
Yellow crocus in the lawn. Purple fists of hyacinth punching through the dirt.

February 20, 2016

H and P met me at Avenue M and we had supper. P wants a letter of recommendation. I was happy with them. When I think of the good things that happened in 2015, H’s return into my life is near the top of the list. Sometimes when I hear someone in the driveway, I think it’s him, and my heart smiles.

Friday, February 19, 2016

February 19, 2016

Went to the office and signed the papers yesterday afternoon. The paralegal kept me waiting 20 minutes in the meeting room while she “got together some documents.” When she came in she looked so harried I decided to say nothing. Her boss was still fixed on getting the signed note from the bank to underline the signed note from the bank, and I still refused to fetch it, which means he has to pick up the phone and call them, poor thing. Paralegal said her boss remarked repeatedly on the deal W was getting. I don’t know whether he thought I was generous or insane. W says he lost his father at 20 and is counting on me to lead him through this. I suppose I have been rather fatherly, and if so, well. But, like most fathers, I’ll be glad when my son is completely on his feet and out the door where this is concerned.
Canceled class because of coughing so hard the muscles in my chest seize up– a new and wonderful gift from my body. But as soon as I sent the emails it stopped, and the day has been relatively cough-free. You’d think I’d enjoy a day off, but I have been restless and at loose ends. W postponed the closing again. The closing costs were more than he was prepared for. . .  though they were spelled out fairly accurately at the beginning. If it had been me, I would have held back on expensive remodeling and adapting until the house was actually mine. On the phone he kept the way open for me to say, “Oh, I’ll pay the damn closing costs,” but I didn’t. I’m trying to keep myself from sinking into the frenzy of frustration that I believe I have earned on this matter. Twenty-five months of delay with me saying from the outset that the only thing that REALLY mattered to me was dispatch.

February 18, 2016

Odd day, about half over as I write.
I thought I was in extraordinarily good voice last night at rehearsal. I was also exhausted, so maybe those things go hand in hand.
What was wrong with the furnace was a flipped switch. I DID check the switches before I called the repairman, every one but the one that was awry. The repairman, Tommy, flipped it and went away without payment, indeed waving off the checkbook I waved in front of his face. I told him nobody had been in the basement for weeks before the furnace episode. He suggested ghosts. I actually considered this, thinking of the ghost of the murdered son who might be dwelling somewhere in the house. I spoke into the air, “It’s all right; you’re welcome here. Just tell me what you need to be comfortable,” thinking that a prank every year or so is not too much to endure from a companionable spirit.
Paid off my BB&T Home Equity Loan, which was standing in the way of closing on 62. I’d taken it on speculation of future need, and almost all of it was still in the bank. But I was worried about paying for the pond and various items. It took me ten minutes to get $16000 from SECU, which apparently had my information from before and shifted money into my account as smooth as running water. I gaped at how easy that was, in comparison to the folderol imposed by the real estate lawyers. Though I delivered to them the bank receipt confirming that I had paid off and closed the equity account, the paralegal said that attorney would need a further note from the bank so that he might be “completely satisfied.” I said that I was not going back to the bank, that all the information was on the receipt and that he would need to be content with that. She dropped it. We’ll see whether it really mattered. I hate with blistering hatred fussing and bothering which I know to be unnecessary.
Reeling from so many things which might have gone badly not having done so.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

February 17, 2016

The household mishap I fear and dread most–the death of the furnace–came to pass last night. I have been taking it with uncharacteristic equanimity. Perhaps something in me divines it won’t be as big a deal as it might be. Perhaps it’s just resignation to the blows. Circe got into the basement and trapped herself in a high place. My shoulders are so inflamed I could scarcely lift her down. Last Thursday I came back to the house and Circe was agitated about something. She cried and cried and would not be comforted. The cleaning ladies had been there that day, and sometimes Maud gets locked in the closet (accidentally) by them. I checked, and that was indeed the problem. Good cat, watching out for her sister.
Voted on a new writer for the department yesterday. We all declared ourselves in unity, though by what different paths we came either close to or remained more distant from that point of union! Our choices were rich, so it’s hard to see a way by which we can go really wrong.
Working on poems again, after a dry spell of–what?– four days?
Read Goethe’s Faust. Thought I had or pretended I had before, but I wish I had taken it fully in. It’s electrifying, magnificent, a whole school for dramatists in itself.
Alexa, the voice in my Echo, is really strikingly stupid– but also quite well informed. An autistic machine.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

February 16, 2016

Worked out and then wrote poetry in the Racquet Club café, surprisingly conducive to such a thing. Maybe it’s the swimmers in the next glass room sliding effortlessly through their element. Lusted after the boy at the desk, then spilled coffee so he had to come and help me clean it up. It was completely accidental. Two burly men in the weight room discussing how hard they have to work to keep their bodies from falling apart at 37. One star as I left the gym, quickly clouded over. Bought an Amazon Echo. So far it has mostly played me music and told me what time it was when it was too dark to see the clock. It thought it lived in Spartanburg until I changed the address. Birds singing in my hollies in the dead of night.

February 15, 2016.

Took Brandon to dinner last night, having to look around because everything was booked for Valentine’s Day. We talked about poetry more than I’ve talked about poetry in a decade. It was lovely. Promised storm flew to the south and north of us.

February 14, 2016

Valentine’s Day. I sent Joseph flowers at his work when I lived on Edwinn Place. That was the last time. Sigh.
Sorry that Scalia is dead. Not sorry is backward voice is gone from the Court.
Dreary run of day. Have not lifted pen to paper, having no project and no energy to invent one, baffled by the question of what the world wants to see from me.
Vivid sudden memories. I left my father’s high school ring in Maeve’s cairn atop Knocknarea. I left a ring my mother bought me on a stone in the middle of a small lake in Connemara. I dropped the Saint Brendan necklace I’d been wearing for years into the waters of Lough Corrib. All to be part of something eternal..

Sunday, February 14, 2016

February 13, 2016

Slept in the front bedroom where I could see the bitter thin snow flying against the streetlight. Continued stream of small disasters to which I react badly.

My father was on my mind. I have been trying to wait out resentment and let tenderness toward him take over, but he has been dead a while now and it has not happened. The tenderness I feel has little to do with him and me, and I would have felt it, watching him at some time or in some deed, even if I had not known him. He was a far better man when he was not around his family. This is his tragedy, and not mine to figure out now. But I did recall those times when I was tempted to silence him or strike him back, gestures I could have made good on even in youth, for he was not a brave man, and, when resisted, if his first brutal response didn’t work, he retreated pitiably. What stopped me? I have pondered that, and realized sometime today that it was the one kind of love he permitted me: a decorum, a filial piety that had more to do with my perception of the world than with my actual situation.. It was knowing he was not a brave or a strong man, and wanting him to have as much dignity as he could, wanting him to be better than he was. Wanting him not to be the man whose son had been forced to throw him down. Wanting him to be a better father than he was. I was proud of myself a little, coming to that realization. My reasons were better when worked out than they were when I was jumbling them all under the label “confusion.” I don’t suppose anyone lets his parents rest completely.

This has bled over into my professional life, where I have steered away from conflict, or, conflict forced upon me, never counterattacked with my full armament. I lack the ruthlessness gene. This is probably for the best, all in all, though it allows the guilty to go unpunished.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

February 12, 2016

Bitter cold. Typing fully dressed, with a hat on my head. Didn’t get much sleep last night, but apparently didn’t need it, for I woke refreshed. Theater last night at the Magnetic. I’d seen the show before as a promising sketch. It’s still a sketch, though expanded to the length of a full-length plain. It did not grow, merely attenuated. But the moon was beautiful when we left the house. Talked merrily with Tracy, whom I would choose as model if someone wanted me to do a portrait of Venus. This night marks my second anniversary at 51.

Friday, February 12, 2016

February 11, 2016

During the Ash Wednesday litany, where we ask forgiveness for various sins, I was dismayed to hear a sin of mine included in every single paragraph. I do avoid the Big Ten, but when it gets subtler than that, I shudder with culpability. One means well every hour of the day, or at least I do. It is a little shocking– a little unfair– to fall so short.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

February 10, 2016

What does a classroom know of what is going on inside their professor?

Fasted. Received the ashes. The ashes are cold and wet, which is rather a shock. You expect them to be dry as the dust they represent.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

February 9, 2016

Snow for an hour, then no snow, then snow again. The ground where no snow lies on it seems raw and hurt.

Days of almost comical catastrophe, one after the other. One stands, brushes off, prepares for the next blow.  In a dream, or maybe a waking revery, I paused in the journey through a dark labyrinth. My way was lit by a candle I held in my hand. I stood in an open place amid many tunnels, and I decided to turn back, to retrace my steps, to return to the beginning, since it was clear I was never going to find the end. I had no illusion about one way turning out any better than another, but I felt as I retraced my steps a dissipating heaviness, as if each mistake erased lightened me a little. After a while– though still irredeemably lost– I felt younger, the missteps rolling off of me like sloughing hide. I was a bewildered and forlorn boy, which is more romantic, anyway, than being a bewildered and forlorn man.

Psychodrama with Fed Ex, who were trying not to deliver my euros. When I was finally at the station with the apparently undeliverable parcel in my hand, the man explained to me that Fed Ex customer service has nothing to do with actual Fed Ex, and will tell customers all sorts of preposterous things they evidently make up on the spot.

Spotify asks me to try a station they have prepared especially for me. Skeptically I try it, but to my surprise it’s perfect. They really have attended to my preferences. This I hold up as the one triumph of past days.

Good work out, the shoulders far more workable than they were when it was at the worst.

February 8, 2016

The guest preacher at All Souls was speaking of a friend of hers in despair. The friend asked, “Am I going to hell?”
The preacher said, “Do you feel abandoned by God?”
“Then you are in hell already.” 
But that is the way I feel, too– every day when I think about it, which is almost every day.  I understand the Calvinists better, who maintain you can go to hell through no particular actions of your own.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

February 7, 2016

Arvo Part on the CD.

There were so many instances of absent-mindedness, distraction, foolishly tender emotion in the last few days that I was, in a way, relieved to find out I was actually sick. Almost, toward the end, immobile with pain. Reached a crisis, shivering on the couch, covered with my coat, took the pills. Some better quickly; the rest comes gradually.   

The pine shed great limbs in the last storm, that battered down a portion of my fence. Sawed and cleared the limbs. The pine sap on my hand smelled clean and sharp. Will worry about the fence later.
Waited for Zach for an hour before realizing that one of the things the fever blotted out was recollection that he had rescheduled. Waited around the house for six hours for the Am Ex guy to bring my euros, realizing finally that I had misread the door notice and there are no Saturday deliveries. Too sick to have gone very far anyway.
The paint came off the front bathroom wall overnight. I assumed a leak in the roof, though I couldn’t see one. Internetted some service who gives your name and your problem to a number of professionals, and big Jim was at my door in under an hour. He climbed the roof and sealed around a couple of pipes, which he thought might be the problem. He chuckled sadly at the roof’s advanced age, and assured me that Stewart had lied about the date of replacement. Big Jim moved here from New Orleans when he visited once and saw that the lead story on the news was ducklings fallen into a sewer, and he wanted to live here rather than a place where they couldn’t mention all the murders of a day in a single newscast. One son is a ear, nose and throat specialist, the other an anesthesiologist. The wall behind the paint is fascinating, a mosaic of old paint jobs, and I may just leave it for a while.
Made my first batch of from-scratch baked beans– a triumph. Bon Appetite suggests in its article on “the bean” that its gas-producing qualities are exaggerated. This is not true.
J takes my piano with her to Florida, “She just hauled it away,” Steven says. It’s all right. It has a next episode in its adventure.

My Syrian friend Mojahed takes pictures of himself reclining at ease beside a Swedish lake. He made it out, whether because of connections or his striking beauty I don’t know.
Too cold in the study almost to work when you first sit down. Finish a paragraph or two and you don’t notice it. It is not true, however, that one gets used to everything.

February 3, 2016

I have more time to sleep than I have need to sleep, which means that I have hours that seem to be filled with nothing but REM. Lately the dreams were largely of travel, an urge I may have satisfied with buying tickets to Amsterdam yesterday. I didn’t know I wanted to go to Amsterdam in particular, but I saw my fingers typing the word, and I just went along with them. It has the virtue of being marvelously easy to get to. The dreams are vivid and tenacious, clinging even when I get up to take a piss or look around the dark house. I can see how, at an advanced age, they may become difficult to tell from “real life.”

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

February 2, 2016

Got in an excellent workout, then wrote a short story in the Racquet Club café, which is a surprisingly good place for writing. Watch the gleaming swimmers with one eye, the page with the other.
Advice to the Deity: To deny is to necessitate.
Cruz wins in Iowa. Maybe we have eliminated the clown; now we have to eliminate the ogre, though that may take until November.
I had something to say when I woke, something I brought with me from dreams, but--

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

February 1, 2016

Saint Brigid’s Day. Physical well-being lingers, though rather balanced by spiritual turbulence. Sexualized day. I could hardly look at a male without the mind wandering. When does this end? Saw the first of our candidates in–somewhat frantic–action. Sweet rain ended the light.