Monday, October 31, 2016

October 31, 2016

Torrid, or at least sultry, students in class in t-shirts and shorts. I was given by them the option of wearing a Halloween costume or bring treats, so baked uncounted dozens of pumpkin-based cookies. 
A’s birthday part at Biltmore Village Friday night. Ate too much and too late and was up until 4 AM watching movies on the cable. Seemed, however, not otherwise to throw my day off. Woke at the same time fully rested.
Saturday I painted and painted, and felt well in soul, except my body was stiff from standing in basically one position on cold concrete for several hours. Visitors from six or seven states. After painting, though, a strange sadness, which clung to me through church and rehearsal on Sunday. Sadness made mostly of loneliness. Will I spend whatever years are left to me alone? Am I alone now, or any more so than anyone else my age whose friends are passing and whose nest is empty? I do not know the things I do not know. Then I had to prepare for class, and the sadness went on the back burner –another argument for not retiring in haste.
Planted one last trailing tree peony that arrived from Ohio. I think they must be all done now. The soil was hot as I dropped my hand into it, except at the very bottom, where there was a saucer of cool. Winter rising up from below.
J said rather auspiciously that she had called me unsuccessfully on behalf of the vestry, and that she would try again yesterday afternoon. She left me to speculate what the call was about–maybe some special thing they wanted me to do; maybe they wanted me to consider running for vestry. Turns out, I was being scolded for not turning in my pledge card. I was in Hungary on Pledge Sunday, and it got lost under a pile of paperwork. But I note that fact that in all my 28 years at All Souls, through trouble and triumph and illness and bereavement, I have received exactly two calls, and both of them were about my pledge.
The most amazing thing: I stood in the sun after planting the peony, staring into my violated pond. My nerves gave a start before I knew why. There swimming merrily were Lao Tsu and Kung Fu Tzu and Sumer, three of the host I had thought gobbled by a heron. I knew them. They were not replacements. I have stood gazing in to those waters LITERALLY for hours, hoping for some sign of my lost friends. The water is clear. You can see to the bottom. There are some places to hide but not many. I swear to God they were not there, but they must not have been, for here they are again. Are they all there, and as the days go by I will see them? I expect elation in the moments to come, but right now what I feel is weirdness. Will that be the general rule of things, that what I thought was lost was not, and I should just keep my mouth shut and wait? That would make it all right– the whole “life” thing, I mean.
Edging toward evening and my playwrights.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

October 27, 2016

Someone sent me a photo of the surface of Mars. I thought that my yard will look the same if I doesn’t rain sometime. Merry flowering maples in red and gold. Lay on the couch with Maud on my stomach, and though she seemed at peace, I had troubled daylight dreams. The dreams were of tasks I had to do and meetings I was missing, but when I troubled myself awake, I realized there were, at the moment, no such things.
Take away from last weekend’s conference: at a writers’ conference I am generally the best and the most obscure. This is an unaccountable match.
Lindsey the Retirement Lady was here, laying out the plan for the twilight of my life. She has it figured that I’ll have plenty of resources until I’m 95, which is the year her plan stops. I suppose I have no business living past 95 anyway.
Applied for a state arts grant, the 22nd time I had done so. To be turned down 21 times in a field I know to be thin, a quadrant in which I know myself to be a supernova in comparison, led me to assume that there was some conspiracy against me in Raleigh. I don’t know that to be untrue, but this time I listened to the recorded webinar on “how to apply” and realized that every one of those 21 times I had done exactly what they told us not to do. I’d assumed they’d choose the best manuscript, give money to someone who meant to continue doing the best work in the state, whereas the actual writing is almost irrelevant. They want the best tale of need. Understood, attempted. We’ll see.
The State votes us a one-time pay augmentation. Mine amounts to $430. Yahoo.
The Citizen-Times continues its protracted suicide, releasing Tony Kiss and Dale Neal, both fixtures in the Asheville community. Both men are past 50 and have served long and well. Wonder what they will do–
Sound of earthmovers and machines at the end of the drive. This bit of street has received more activity without apparent result than any spot on earth. Cities have risen in less time.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

October 25, 2016

Twelve bags of mulch on the garden Sunday, twelve more today. I think I have almost mulched to my heart’s content. Excellent work out of my playwrights. Emily– Charlotte Corday-- confirmed my suspicion that the play was not directed in the usual sense at all. “Just go out there and have fun.” Jesus. De Sade’s meek affect was because the director had said do him once, “You don’t have to shout the whole thing.” So, tones right for a chat around the lunch table after that. No middle ground. Another brilliant day, blue as God’s own eggshell. Dahlia, rose, flowering maple in bloom.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

October 23, 2016

Each time the furnace kicks on I praise the gods.
Yesterday spent at the conference. Meditation in the morning, at which I read Hopkins. My own reading went well, I suppose, but how can you tell? I was very much different from anybody else there. My work least resembled a homily. Lovely lunch at the Chancellor’s. Despite determination, I had to skip the community dinner and come home for a nap. I fell flat asleep in someone’s discussion, me so out of it I don’t even remember who it was. In the evening we read again, briefly, then T did a two hour  interview of the author of The Warmth of Other Suns. This could not be said during the conference, she being our guest of honor, but I’ve never sat down and listened to T, allowing her program to waft passively through the air as I’m about other tasks on a Sunday morning. When I have attended, I’ve found her breathless, attenuated, boring. . . or should I just say, not exactly to my taste. SO, picture me in the front row for the evening overhearing a DETAILED conversation about a book I hadn’t read. Anyway, all things come to an end, and my colleagues cover themselves with glory by pulling this conference off so nobly. Me, I have two fat novels to read before morning, and bags of mulch to buy while they’re at a reduced price.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

October 22, 2016

Tolstoy dragged over the coals yesterday for being long-winded. Everyone in the room thought they could get poor Ivan Ilych into his grave much faster.
Day one of Faith & Literature. I felt my energy drain away, so I was able to attend only one session, and it was oddly disheartening. The honored presenters seemed to have learned their lines but had no real connection to the play. Writers at writing conferences, the important ones at the front of the room, have a certain decorum, jolly and eloquent and off-hand and self-deprecating, broadcasting at once that what they do is of no consequence and of paramount consequence, a sort of backward vanity, longing for a moderator or audience member to say ask the right question to assert their brilliance while yet appearing all unwilling. I probably look like an ass for fighting it. I’m on pretty much all day today, so there will be no sneaking home for a nap. 
Marat/Sade at the university last night. I thought it would conserve my energy just to sit and watch, but I was wrong. Matthew had done new music for it, and the music was excellent (better than the original), if weakly performed. The show was a miss, though anywhere you looked the young actor was working hard and concentrating on his task. I noticed after a while-- trying to explain why a show so well designed was not working-- that every single line was delivered wrong, slightly wrong or cataclysmically wrong. Emphasis up when emphasis should be down, lines that should be flipped off lingered over, significant lines whispered into the floorboards. Actor training has always, always been the department’s weakness. They know how to move but they don’t know how to speak, and the concept “interpreting the line” is not thought of. I remembered playing Kokol forty five years ago. I remembered every line, which was worse for the present night, in a way. I remembered almost every actor, some of whom I had not thought of since.
Hazel Robinson is dead. I am one of those many in her debt.
Sudden winter. The office is cold.

Friday, October 21, 2016

October 21, 2016

Amazing and joint-restoring trip to the gym. All is better with a little exercise. This sun keeps coming up over the hill.
Voted on the first day of early voting, standing in a long line at the library, the line itself a referendum on the question of early voting. The women of my acquaintance were wearing pantsuits in honor of Hillary. I thought voting against the second Bush was the highest duty I have had as a citizen, but this year the peril is ten times more dire, and as that ended in a shocking mistake, this may yet. I don’t think so. Some idiocies are too great even for the American electorate. Stood in line with G, who comforted me with the confidence that the Boy’s actions are as mysterious and corrupt to her as they are to me, though she has nowhere to escape. She called me “the shining star, the diamond,” and said that when she was giving a lecture at UT, a poster announced that someone else was giving a lecture on me. Could I have known about that? Could I have put that out of my head? Came home and wrote a mock-heroic in couplets about the Boy and his misdeeds. Maybe that got it finally out of my system.
Cyclamen in bloom, which is good. Flowering maple in bloom, which is out of season.
Met Michael H's wife Mari and her daughter Alex at the Catawba Brewery downtown. Tried to think of the last time I saw Michael– on the snowfields of the Clark Reservation near Syracuse, where I tried to ski? She met Michael and his first wife when they came to her restaurant, and when the wife died, she comforted him. Liked them and liked the little street that seems to have sprung up while we looked the other way. On up to the Fine Arts to see a film about Robert Shaw that the church sponsored. I have gone out of my way to keep my artistic intensities and obsessions from being public. Adds to my obscurity, but saves everybody else’s feelings. Today begins the Faith and Literature Conference, all of which reminds me how much energy I have expended to give myself a quiet life, where every minute might be a productive minute. Not so for parcels of the foreseeable future.
I will wear pink. That will set some kind of tone.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

October 19, 2016

Stood in the blazing autumn light of the garden. Something hung in the air maybe twenty inches away. I looked, and it was a dragonfly, hovering as though still in the air. But what a dragonfly! It was night black inlaid with blazing emerald, its eyes green and golden. It was the most beautiful creature in that present world. It curved around and buzzed the empty pond, saying “Your fish are gone, but now I can lay my eggs in safety. Is that not compensation? Am I not as beautiful as they?”  She owns the air above the pond now, circling, blazing and darkening in the varying light.
Sick and weak again. Sleep prodigiously. Meeting with the Provost to discuss the future of an MFA in writing at UNCA. Provost says, “We are famous with the GA for never trying anything new.” The weekend of Faith and Literature Conference approaches, and I learn the full, and daunting, extent of my participation. Gird the loins. Seize the weapon.

October 17, 2016

Steve and DJ and I ate at Avenue M after Cantaria, and after that I went to bed immediately, shedding clothing as I walked toward the bed, so profound was my exhaustion.

Last night, glimpsed as I staggered from the car, stupendous moon.

One accepts a little TSA pilfering. This time, oddly, they took the charger for my little canon camera.

Monday, October 17, 2016

October 16, 2016

Steel sky before evening. With a mighty effort I managed to get all the remaining bulbs and slips and plants into the ground, all that I’ve received so far, the great last mass of daffodils and peony and trillium and fern and butterfly weed. Except for a sassafras tree, nothing more is expected. Therefore I hope that the steel gray means imminent rain. I sat under the maple beside the wind chime in contemplation, and one of the things I contemplated was the tiny flying things round about me. Something– it may have been the smallest imaginable wasp– kept getting tangled in the hair on my arms. I watched it thrash about, climb to the top of a hair, fall back, climb again, finally spreading its wings in victory, all the while I scarcely would have known it was there had I not been looking at the right instant. Worlds within worlds.
Sat at our table for the Admissions open house, talking to eager young ones heading our way. The view of the mountains behind us should have snagged those our charm and erudition did not.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

October 15, 2016

Sad autumnal empty pond.
Discussion in class yesterday about why they don’t get the assignments read. They have to work in order to go to school, so there’s no time to do the work they need to do for school. The apparent contradiction is, to them, not apparent. If we did fewer works but delved into them more deeply, it would be better, they say. I say, “You don’t read the works, fewer or more, so ‘delving deeper’ means me standing up here explicating for an hour each morning.” They nod. They do not even disagree. I remind them that they had the reading list this summer, weeks before the start of school. They shrug. It’s clear that “preparation” or “foresight” are concepts never thought of.  
Hundred-dollar-each peonies arrive yesterday, get themselves into the ground by lingering warmish autumn twilight.
Immense stomach muscle spasms on getting off the couch last night, still sore this morning. The anemia is back, but the last iron pill was so painful I don’t know what to do about it.
Wanted to audition for the second go-round of All Is Calm, stopped myself by main force from doing so. All energy would go into that for the holidays, and how many holidays have I left?
Final taste left in my mouth by The BofC is a little off. Simultaneously I helped build a beautiful work of art and enabled a whopping load of expensive and self-delighted bullshit. Don’t know how to bring it all into balance. We talked about that, too, in class yesterday, and my students tried to comfort me by pointing out the imperfection of all human effort, however grand and necessary.
Sam visits first thing in the dark of the morning.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

October 13, 2016

Tragedies loomed but dissipated, so I guess I’ll call yesterday’s flight home uneventful but very long and very boring. Customs in Atlanta was almost empty, as were the TSA checkpoints. Almost not a challenge. As for flying fist class- I don’t know that I can ever return to coach. Watched a thousand documentaries, one on Peggy Guggenheim.

Cartons of bulbs when I got here, so I’ve driven myself into exhaustion getting about 1/3 of them planted and set to bed for the Darkness. The rest, maybe this weekend.

All my fish are gone out of the pond, all the big golden ones with names, Egypt, Sumer, Akkad, Cyrus the Golden, Lao Tsue, Kung Fu Tsu. All of them gone. Some of the minnows are left. I think Minos is gone too. I don’t think this was natural. I don’t think it was an animal. I had a brief vision of it happening. It was twilight and my eyes were high off the ground, high as a man, higher than myself. It is discouraging. Sad.

I notice from my trip that never once was I afflicted by the plantar fasciitis that often makes my days hell. Better shoes? More walking? The influence of the holy Danube?

Bob Dylan is the Nobel laureate in Literature. I have through the long day made my peace with that.

Budapest 7

October 12, 2016

Rain for the flight. Dreamed lengthily, obsessively about Montford Park. There was a mystery actor who came in disguise and did lead roles but never revealed who he was, and they were trying to get me to admit it was me. It was.
My flight is relatively late, and I am ready, and I refuse to imagine things to worry about.
Concert at the basilica last night. At least a four second reverberation in the vast, vaguely gold stone room. Big old warhorses, just what the tourists wanted.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Budapest 6

October 11, 2016

The most remarkable thing: at the Anna Café on Vaci Utca, two men sitting, each with a hawk on his wrist. The men were chatting and the hawks preening and looking hawk-like at the crowd. Maybe they were gods, for when I came back few minutes later to catch another glimpse, they were gone, man and hawk together.

Rain against the window. How will this affect the day?

Vivid dreams of Grandpa Summers, Jack Parson and Peg Downes and I being at his house cleaning up a mess someone had made with spilled chocolates.

Wandered about in the cold rain. Returned to Parliament but did not go in, because of the crowds. Walked to the Buda funicular, but did not ride because of the crowds. Toured part of Buda that was familiar to me from before. Bought a ticket to an organ concert tonight at St Stephan’s. Bought a VIP seat because of a superfluity of forints still in my wallet. Sat down twice because of pain in my legs, once to drink mocha and watch a Japanese family, once to eat zucchini soup and watch four Hungarian men at lunch together, boisterous and affectionate. This is one of those “empty” days one has overseas, without moving forward, gathering a little biological strength.

This has been a multifaceted experience. It was an honor being part of it, though I was the only one to participate for honor alone. It introduced me to Budapest, a city which was not high on my list and to which I may never have gotten otherwise. The verses I wrote for it are not my best, and were written “to order,” to some degree, for a person whose vision was not my own. The finished product is. . . well, I don’t know what to say. I think Lucio’s music is sublime and lifts my verses with it, but that is not what the producers want to foster. Yet they got the ball rolling, and without them there would have been no opus. It has added minimally to my minimal portion of fame. It has been an experience the end of which I probably have not yet seen, and so I sit tight, listen to the six o’clock bells from the basilica, prepare to go out one last time in the Hungarian rain.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Budapest 5

October 10, 2016

Went to the Evangelical Church for services, because they were doing a Bach duet cantata, #49, I think. Boring in the most accomplished and elevated way.

Blog Review of The Birth of Color, which doesn’t mention me or Lucio:

Final performance of the show was likely the best. I’d had a light attack of phlebitis, and fever and antibiotics put me in a sleepy, receptive frame that was good for the viewing show. All is well here, a triumph. We are International Stars, on a tiny level. Reception afterwards, talk with some of the charming choristers. Big dinner at Callas with A and J at the end, too late for the kind of sleep I wanted, but, again, all is well. A small orchestra played classical hits while we drank our dessert Bailey’s..

Looked around the theater and thought, against my own will, “I am the only one who has not been paid a dime. The boys fiddling with microphones. . . the second altos. .  everyone but the poet.”  I must resent it because I think of it, but on the other hand doing it for free, when I thought everyone was volunteering, was fine. Trying not to resent what I really don’t care about. That much. D lamented that the show cost upward of $140,000. You’d think they could have found cabfare for me. Anyway. . . .

One of the longest days in my life of tourism, walking to Parliament, crossing the bridge into Buda, climbing all about there, staggering home. I note that I’m in comparatively good shape, better than for Amsterdam, or Rome, or the last time here. Bright, cool day. Messages and items of protest (little of which I understood) in front of the Soviet-era monuments; Ronald Reagan guarding the space between them and Parliament. Parliament itself is as grand as the photos suggest, with a red carpet rolled out for someone today (crookedly) and visitation therefore curtailed. Climbed up into Buda, where my camera battery died, and that was the end of the visual chronicle. But I wandered to Saint Matthias, which, like St Stephen’s in Vienna, is more beautiful outside than in, its decorations falling short of gaudy only by reason of mellowing age. People barked at us if we tried to peer over the railings at the sensational view of Pest, because they were filming a movie and didn’t want random heads in it. When it was time to leave, I started down a walk and a guard said “No down. Movie.” I said, “I have to get down. Where can I go–?”
“No down. Movie.”
“Tell me where I can get down and I’ll–“
”No down. Movie.”
This went on. After a while we were nose to nose, and I might actually have said, trusting his ignorance of English, “I’m about to get down through your colon,” but his colleague saved the situation by pointing to the alternate route, which is all I wanted.
The guy who had been photographing The Birth of Color and his Danish wife were also at the Castle. It was great to be in a strange city and run into people you know. He said, “I photographed you taking a bow, but what exactly was it you did with the show?”
“I wrote it.”

Ate goulash at a café, where I stopped because of two beautiful boys (American boys, it turned out, when they spoke) staring at each other under the awning. They were oblivious to me, to the street, everything, drinking in each other’s beauty. When the food came, they ate it without taking their eyes from one another. I blessed them with a blessing that wished that moment might dwell in them forever. I have never been on the receiving end of such love, so it seems holy to me.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Budapest 4

October 9, 2016

The second performance was better, tighter than the first, and to me more moving, as I came to understand the concept better. A half moon rode over the Duna, and I pointed to it and asked the taxi driver “What is that?” He said, as though I were the stupidest person in the world, “Moon.” Maybe he thought I was testing his English. Discovered later that “moon” is “hold.” I bet the driver has told the story of the stupid American more than once. Stately Istvan, the man who might have been king, was there, and noted that I look much better than I did before, when, though he couldn’t diagnose with what, I was clearly ill. Perhaps I was, but I don’t remember being ill, though surely ill-at-ease. I have away five copies inscribed of Blood Rose to people who had been important to the cause. I’m far enough away that I won’t expect to find them in a second hand store in a few weeks. The taxi apparatus was smooth as glass this time. Allen and Jellena and I ate at the hotel lounge afterward, everywhere else being booked up for Saturday night. Jellena is a pre-school teacher in Slovenia’s second largest city, that I forget the name of, with two children, whom she left with grandparents to come and meet Allen, whom she likes.

Went outside to test the temperature when I heard the Hallelujah Chorus being sung in front of the opera house. A band and chorus were there, it turns out, to make still more festive the Budapest Marathon being run today. I listened to Handel and Verdi while thin muscular men with determined expressions–thousands of them– chugged by. At places in the avenues there are bands and drummers to provide traveling music for the runners.

The Fs have people coming from Germany and the US and the UK and Italy and God knows where to see The Birth of Color. I can’t get people to take the train from Brooklyn to see my work in Manhattan. A is in Prague and decided not to bother with this. One shrugs.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Budapest 3

October 9, 2016

Walked to the Dohanyi  Synagogue, to which young fathers in skullcaps were leading their children. It was Yom Kipper. It was a day of blazing light. I tried not to think of Hungarian Jewry, the tragic tears one must shed now beyond any help. Returned to my obscure garden, and the street café where I had coffee when I had to spend hours a day at the state radio, and the museum with the tank in the yard. Ate at Callas, where providence was pleased for me to encounter Allen and Jelena again. Allen told me the long history of himself and H and Mr Smith and TG, a story I knew in fragments and innuendos but never any part of the full fabric. I am grateful that I never put so much of my trust in anyone as to have been betrayed by them in a way that tore my life asunder. Betrayal is the theme of that story, and Allen seemed to need to tell it. Jelena listened with patient attentiveness. The 6 PM bells ring out over Budapest.

Opening Night

October 8, 2016

So, first thing, all my anxieties about getting home from the far-flung museum came true. There we were, standing darkling in a dangerous bend of a high curving street in Buda, alone, three different taxis having failed to arrive. The last people leaving found us room in their cars, and we got home, but I do not feel good about the occasion. By “we” I mean AP and his woman friend from–Slovenia? Slovak Republic? I had never thought to see A again in this life, though he sort of started al this rolling by getting H in touch with me 17 years ago. The transportation debacle shifted to one side the fact that the premiere of The Birth of Color was quite amazing. The Chapel in the Kiscelli is one of the best rooms in the world, vast, medieval-looking, rough and ruined, resonant, a place a boy could play in for hours, except for being clammy as a tomb, perfect in every way. It was filled with singing bowls made of pale quartz and streamers to bear the lights, and the chorus was, as ever, perfection, with just the edge of coldness to bring tang to a score that is perhaps ever so slightly over-lush. I thought myself that the event was a little over-produced, more like an Olympics opening ceremony than the sort of art event I understand, but none of the comments from the crowd suggested that, all praise, all fireworks. A famous critic from Atlanta who’d flown in for the event murmured “wonderful. .  wonderful. . .nothing like it ever.” It was moving, extraordinary, and I will agree with everybody on the adjective “unique.” H and D were proud and happy, as was I, especially in the degree to which it delighted them. Here I am in a Central European Capital part of what is, for a few nights, the most remarkable thing happening in the arts. They translated my text into Hungarian for an opening declamation, and it sounds fantastic, like the first language ever spoken in the world. I tried to listen to see if it was as beautiful in English, but I couldn’t get past the meaning of the words. It’s hard to imagine this set of talents and circumstances ever coming together again, but the oratorio itself could have continuing life. I hope everybody hears it. I hope everybody (with major talent) wants to sing it.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Budapest 2

October 7, 2016

Ate included breakfast in the breakfast room. The American couple beside me was discussing when they were going to do laundry and how, if you fry it enough, cauliflower can become palatable. As I was breakfasting, just as the food began to settle, my stomach was stricken with extreme pain, such as I had never felt there before. I came upstairs either to vomit or to die. I did neither, but now I’m frightened and wary. I need this to happen 7000 miles from home.

Got Patti Smith’s much-talked-of M Train from the airport bookstore. It pisses me off. I could have written it in three days. Perhaps she did.

Roamed the streets of Budapest in the cold bright light. Tied together my old stomping grounds so they are frozen in memory. Decided that the gut-sickness was my body telling me I had taken enough iron pills. Sat in a park by the river and wrote. Sat in a café with a glass of beer and wrote.

My left leg is too swollen for me to wear the classy pants I bought for tonight’s opening.

The Kiscelli is at the butt end of town, far from any public transportation, and raises in me a perfect storm of anxiety. Will it be late night and me walking ten miles home through a strange city in the winter cold? Have decided there will be no taxis and no one will offer me a ride. Can’t even wear my warmest clothes, because I have to look nice for the opening. My comfort is that most of it, from there, is downhill. I am too old for this.

Thursday, October 6, 2016


October 6, 2016

K&K Opera Hotel, Budapest. It took 1000 forints to buy a Starbucks, 7000 forints to get here from the airport, which is about 25 euro; one adjusts to the astronomical numbers. Sat beside a sea captain now living in Marion, NC, who’s retired from actual captaining and now works a desk job in Denmark. The trip was almost suspiciously trauma-free. Will even paid his rent early (which is to say, on time) so I have a little cushion in the bank. As the taxi passed the history museum with the ratty park I wrote poems in, and the little avenue leading to the radio station I came to know intimately, I perked up, for this part of the city I know. My room on the 7th floor has no view, of course, except for the windows of the rooms opposite and a pretty red roof off in the distance. Walked in the thin rain to Saint Stephen’s, Szent Istvan, which I somehow managed to miss before. Walked its long front avenue to the Duna, had some Starbucks in a tent near where some politician was going on in incomprehensible Hungarian, returned to the hotel. Have a ticket for Kodaly’s The Spinning Room at the opera tonight. Never heard of it; certainly never heard it. I could spit and hit the opera house, which is what I planned. Stood for a good while at the ticket booth behind an Italian who would not be satisfied, and kept saying “Your BEST price. . . your BEST price. . .” as if he expected the clerk to be holding out on him. His great beauty, when he turned around, made me glad I hadn’t started something. Traviata is sold out, so I’d best enjoy tonight.

Home from the opera: Szekely fono, The Spinning Room by Kodaly. Let’s see. . . The music was lively and lush, the staging, as I remember from the Strauss festival two summers ago, beautiful and inventive. Many men with their shirts off. It was an alternating discussion, in music based on and using Transylvanian folk motives, of death and love. A young man dies. . . then a bunch of women discuss love while dancing. . . and a bunch of men discuss love while dancing. . . a guy named Laslo pines for a girl named Ilona. . . everyone wants to die and their mothers hold them back. . . there is a demon. . .there is snow. . .the man who died comes back and claims his true love, a chubby lady in a blue skirt. Maybe I should have bought a libretto, though it was in Hungarian. Before the opera came a folk cabaret with dancers, a girl singer, and several musicians in black suits. At the end of their set they played some opening notes, and the violinist pointed at the crowd with his bow and everybody began singing a sad, beautiful song that all the Hungarians knew. It was lovely. A German woman kept asking me questions in German, which I kept answering, mostly on the theme of I didn’t know what was going on either.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

October 5, 2016

Yemassee Review takes “Bonhanno’s Death.” The editor wrote that there was “much discussion” among the staff about it. I wonder what? Deep, long dreams before rising. In the last I and a good friend were searching for a hole at the bottom of a pool (a pool the size of a lake) that I knew was there and which I knew must be found. But it was the quality of the friendship in the dream that mattered, deep, close, confiding, fulfilling. Whereas in life I have never had a friend to match the friend I was willing to be.  Maybe that’s what the dream was about. Packed and ready for class, then ready for the flight, where, for a time, all things are out of my hands.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

October 4, 2016

Warmish autumn. We discussed the Comprehensives, and the marked quality people have–these days–of looking outside themselves for their failings. Parents of failures will phone, demanding to know what was wrong with the test. One student did not address the essay at all, but spent her time railing at us for expecting her to know things. Nor is that even an exaggeration. Watered the latest-into-the-ground, preparing to leap into the skies for Central Europe. Prepared. Untypically excited.

October 3, 2016

A watermelon vine twines about the front garden bearing one lush orange flower, evidence, probably, of my spitting seeds over the edge of the porch. It hasn’t time to make a watermelon, but I’m going to see to it that it has as much life as it can get between now and the freeze. The white rose blooms more heavily than ever.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

October 2, 2016

The bishop’s installation was dignified, festive, and took its ample time. I like the new bishop. He looked young and fragile kneeling before the old bishops in their red and gold. Favorable premonition.

Asheville Pride was merry and brilliantly lit. We always have problems with the sound system, and the actual performance is always a disappointment, but there we were, steadfast, and it was good to see so many colorful people having a colorful good time.  We are always “top-heavy,” in that the tenors have an unerring instinct for how to get the mics into their mouths, and the basses do not.

Abundant and weird dreams. My dream self is heterosexual, I think, for several of the dreams–rather extended ones– were about making love to women. I critiqued this in the dream, thinking “this isn’t like me,” but I didn’t stop.

Fussing with my Budapest reservations. I am going First Class. Did I pay for that, or did it just happen? In any case, it is well with my soul.

Evening: We seated the bishop this morning in his cathedra, in his cathedral. It was an unexpectedly moving event. I cannot sing “Saint Patrick’s Breastplate,” for it is to me a more perfect credo, and I am moved to tears, and it takes a better man than I to sing through tears. 

October 1, 2016

Cool autumn morning before a day of harsh singing– that is to say, singing in mammoth numbers for the bishop’s installation, bellowing in the bright cold opening for Asheville Pride. We’ll know how it went when it is over.
Driving home from the theater the other night I found myself taking one route rather than the other because the Woodfin police are worse than the Asheville police, and more to be avoided at night on a deserted street. That’s sad.