Monday, June 26, 2017


June 26, 2017

Yo Yo Ma’s Appalachian Waltz on Spotify.

Dream which ended in a remembrance of the moment when Mike Herhold and I won the “neatest campers” prize at summer camp in West Virginia. How deep was that buried?

When I close my eyes, image of a tulip sapling gleaming in a shaft of gold light.

Got my car washed. It was getting a little sickening inside. Contemplated the young man who was running the carwash–competent, polite, but also obviously on the edge of fury. Glad I came early.

Fairly good painting. Tried an Impressionist landscape. It looks like yellow mud. Ordered elegant papers. New studiomate, Geri, with lovely jewelry.

More weeding than I expected to do when I set to it. Close the eyes and see crabgrass.

The days, officially “free,” nevertheless get filled.

June 25, 2017

Reading a biography of Hart Crane, hesitating through it because he’s not really a very good poet and maybe I’m wasting my time.

Cantaria’s evening performance may have been the most nearly incident-free of our career. The audience seemed to like it, and I had a good time. Moments where I was learning something new musically. Must find the right shoes for singing. Lovely drinks afterward at the Wayside.

On the way to sing I auditioned for Different Strokes, Steph’s theater group. Auditioned to be a KKK Exalted Cyclops or whatever it was. Interesting audition, including games, which normally irritate me, but this time seemed useful. Will be in Ireland for a chunk of rehearsals, so it’s probably a non-starter. But I needed something meaty, even if offensive.

Knee pain replaced by back pain. One smiles ruefully.

Saturday, June 24, 2017


June 23, 2017

It has been so wet weeds pulled three days ago are still green and hopeful.

Had the expected temper tantrums setting up my new printer.

M and R’s son A was born today. He looks huge in the photo he sent, probably because he was near the camera. Impressive, expressive eyebrows.

Dress rehearsal for Cantaria that went better than any other in memory. Hope this does not hex the performance.

Knee almost useless for part of the day.

The garden rising in red and gold to a new campaign for mid-summer.

Thursday, June 22, 2017


June 22, 2017

Maud the cat rubbing her face against my toes as if she wanted to start a fire. Trying to remember what I did today. Wrote a poem to welcome Maria and Russell’s baby, to be born tomorrow. The 23rd of every month seems lucky to me. Rain, I guess from the tropical storm that came ashore in Louisiana. Drove to the studio but didn’t go in. Haven’t seen my bunny in days. Forlorn. It’s hard to know how to go forward. In private life, quality simply does not matter. In public life, lies do not bother to disguise themselves; if we want to hear it, then it must be true. I possess no powers to overcome either of these things, and unless they are overcome, all stops. Given this, life is very much too long. C posted pictures of the Hiram reunion, and I recognized two souls, she being one of the, They were so old. . . .

June 21, 2017

Much sleeping on the first day of summer. Painting. A poem in the café. Little fires on the edge of the green margin which are my flowers. Moving paintings around in the studio– too many big spiders behind them. Windhover takes a poem.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


June 20, 2017

Night coming on, a sort of pale Prussian blue silvered in some inexplicable way.  Weeded for an hour, came in to itch for an hour from the mosquito bites. Some plants planted last year and which I thought were no-shows bloom this year, Patience, patience. A red bloom appears above my waterlilies. Alex alerted me to the existence of Richmond Hill Park. I sought it our this morning on my way to the studio. I got out of the car and had walked three or four minutes, and reached the border between sun and shadow-- the open, almost wild meadow, where the thistle and the ragweed still gleamed with dew– when I felt my chest unclenching as though I had been administered some honeyed opiate. The blood ran cool in my limbs. . . I felt relaxed maybe for the first time since returning from Venice. I realized what was happening. I continued into the woods– a beautiful young woods, even if overgrown with poison ivy– and said to the spirits there, “Come into me. Come in. Come. Possess me. Leave no space for anything else. Fill me.” And they did.  I could not make the demon depart by wishing it, by willing it, by praying for it, by concentrating on fierce opposition, but I thought if I invited light to crowd out the uninvited shadow, that it may work. Small light drives away vast shadow. It did work. It has worked. The evil visions the demon imposed are replaced by a tulip tree standing in pure light, by a field of flowers, by the tangle of deep trees, by blue sky paled with morning cloud. Possession confounded by possession. Even the way my skin feels is different, not prickled constantly from the inside by the half-formed but ever-present sensations of horrible shapes and deformities. I feel as a man; I feel the way I look for the first time in months. If I can keep this up, if I can attend to the blessed spirits and starve the demon of all attention, I may crawl forever back among the living. For this day I have been blessed. Watched a man practicing Extreme Frisbee, then a young father bring his son to watch him practice. He was the most excellent father, caressing his child with his voice, never letting a teaching opportunity go by. I thought blessed. Sat at a picnic table and wrote a poem. Continued to the studio and painted well. Going to try to get to bed tonight sober and before 3 AM.

Monday, June 19, 2017


June 18, 2017

Turbulent Day. Good day. Both at the same time. Coffee with A, at which time we noticed the perfection of the day and of the atmosphere. A day, weather-wise, anyhow, of Paradise. Deep hatred of the shape of crabgrass led to and orgy and pulling and digging. Paradoxically enraged at not knowing about a rehearsal I wouldn’t have attended had I known about it. Made stupid and repeated mistakes in rehearsal, hobbled, I think, by anger. After a long phone call on the All Souls lawn with the publisher, it looks like Peniel is a go. Not what I had hoped for. Cause for a smile and then a sigh. But good enough. Ten times better than not.

Saturday, June 17, 2017


June 17, 2017

Came out of dreams into a space haunted by the demon, so the first of day was sadness and defeat. I will say it has not gotten worse.

Exceptional writing at the High Five. I may have brought the Poets play near to its end.

I think I made progress at the studio, but left things in places with which I am not pleased, and the roughness stays with me. Cute high school kids from Hendersonville chatted with me a long while, eager and open, and I was grateful. Later a family from Xenia, where they still talk about the tornado.

No call, but an email from SJ Press. We are to talk tomorrow-- just as I am in rehearsal, of course. He is serious about “working with me,” so the worst of the worst is avoided. I look online for evidence that the Press is a vanity press or odd in some way, and nothing comes up. Rather the opposite. Even evidence does not fully allay my misgivings after the experiences I’ve had. I look for rejoicing in my heart, but it is still cowering many rooms and corridors back in the Mansion of Dread.

Theater last night, C triumphant in speeches that challenged him and seemed made for him at the same time. I think a playwright’s paradise is knowing whom he is writing for, and knowing they can go wherever he leads. The question came up of audience, and how to get more without doing crap all the time, which is what “saved” ACT.  I want to say “I’ve seen no more than this in the audience for supreme productions in London and New York,” but though that may soothe the hurt artist nerve, it doesn’t help the bank balance. I need a couple of billion a year so I can finance people to do the work that needs to be done without all the time worrying about the rent.

The burnt orange of my inherited daylilies lines the drive and the back of the yard.

Friday, June 16, 2017


June 16, 2017

Bloom’s Day.

Belatedly read my faculty evaluation. Carbon copy of the last twenty years. But then, maybe I’m a carbon copy of the last 20 years. And I have dated myself using “carbon copy.” I long ago left off reading student evaluations, but some leak through into the faculty eval, reminding me of why I stopped looking at them in the first place. The “negative” comments are most often factually in error– such as “We didn’t have a syllabus. . . we never knew when exams were going to be. . .he made up the readings as we went. . “ when I can produce syllabi for every course, with every exam and assignment noted. What can be done about that, but to slap the forehead and move on?
 
Good work in the studio. Sold my blue-throated hummingbird to a couple from Tennessee who received, as they were standing beside my easel, word that his brother had a heart attack and was dying, in Willoughby, Ohio.

Kept phone in hand all day to receive a call from R which he had pledged for today and which, of course, never came. This leads me to assume the news is bad.

Phone call from C, who is reading Birdsongs of the Mesozoic. It took her two minutes to remind me fully of herself, though we have not met since 1983.

Dreamed that I was at a banquet receiving a prize for starring in the play Casey at the Bat., which even in the dream I didn’t remember doing.

Thursday, June 15, 2017


June 15, 2017

Dark outside of approaching storm. Blessed. The storm outside balances the storm inside, and one is for an hour at peace.

DJ and I saw Wonder Woman last night. It’s not the movie I would have made given the same material, but I liked it. Talked with a young couple in the lobby afterward. She was outraged because WW required a man’s love to complete and fully motivate her, while was hoping for a totally self-begotten, self propelled Woman Hero. He didn’t like the dialogue because– well, he was less articulate than his girlfriend, but it seemed that the men didn’t exclaim enough at the wonders Diana was performing. I found no sympathy in myself for either perspective, but nevertheless admit the two were visibly and honestly shaken by what they had seen. I think this is what an artist wants, even if the tone is antipathy.

Dinner afterward. Our waitress was one of those people who manages to enrage without ever doing anything wrong. Just the manner of the doing. Must be a pheromone.

Excellent progress at the studio, the complete resurrection of an old and important painting. Visitors from Dallas and Alpharetta, the later who knew my sister’s street. Progress on the play about poets.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


June 14, 2017

Morning at the Y, smitten by what must have been a deliberate convention of handsome men. Fairly good painting afterwards, a statue in a formal garden. My neighbor Ray is apparently in jail. Miss him. His studio will be taken by a jeweler, Steven says.

Wrote this to go in Facebook, but realized I wasn’t up for all that would follow:

I’m detaching this comment from all the places on FB where it’s being talked about, so no one feels personally attacked or challenged. Please attach “In my opinion” to everything I’m about to say. I think it’s odd– by “odd” I mean “foolish”– when people equate atheism with advanced intelligence or powers of reason. Many of the favorite people in my life are atheists, or declare themselves to be, and though this does not make me love them less, I know that there is one important destination we can never travel to together. Those of you who know me know I never proselytize– in fact some people are surprised to discover I’m a believer– but that is not because I doubt my own faith, but because the objects of faith are so palpable to me that another’s not perceiving them seems wilful and outside the realm of useful discussion. The sphere of Spirit is real and palpable, and those who do not perceive it are not advanced but rather deficient. A person who is tone deaf–or actually deaf-- is not considered to be offering a real or useful critique of music when he remains unmoved by it, or if he should asset its non-existence. My massage guy has a very slight sense of smell, and to him most tastes are fables. I myself am not very good at Math and have more than once declared, or felt like declaring, “math doesn’t matter,” but that is an expression of my limitations and has nothing to do with MATH. Some people understand abstract painting; others do not. We may think that those who claim to understand it are “making it up,” but they would not think so. You may think a believer is imagining or willing the spiritual presence guides his life, but to do so is a kind of smirking arrogance that most of us would deny ourselves in other contexts.  Not one person on this planet has the experience of the absence of God. Those who fail to experience the presence of God may be content with that (no reason NOT to be content with that) but maybe should stop short of asserting that out of their blindness arises a genuine description of the world.  I too am fed with organized religion and want it out of government, etc, etc, but that is hugely not the same thing as atheism. I want the Faultless Body of Christ to be free of all that crap; I do not misidentify the Body with the crap. So, OK, be an atheist, but stop being so proud of it. You are not advanced. You are, from other perspectives equal in wisdom and perception to your own,  wilful or deficient. And right now God is rolling His eyes and saying, “Do you really think I need you to fight for me?” sigh—

My thoughts fly westward to D, who may in fact be the man of my dreams, the one I was looking for down every alley and in every street, perfect in every way, physical, moral, spiritual. And Irish. The fact that nothing can come of it is one of God’s little jokes. The timing is off by 40 years. Even the sexuality does not matter so much, for the kind of heroic friendship I imagined might have been free of sexuality– maybe would have been better, purer free of it. But– no. Not even a spark. That I can be reasonable about it, that I can look at it and dismiss it with a “well. . . well. . . “ says something about my exhaustion after all these years.

Had to hack out new bamboo shoots brought on by the rain. Writing at a new play.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


June 13, 2017

Hard brief rain exempted me from watering the garden– which flourishes. Yellow calla in bloom; all new plantings seem to be prospering. Need at least one good day of epic weeding, one day when it’s not so hot. Rogue violets want to take over every inch of land. One loves them, but one must choose.

Accidentally poured hot oil from the frying pan onto my hand. It stung for five minutes and stopped. No redness. No swelling. I managed to pour the rest into a plastic cup, which melted instantly. I am praising Jesus.

Memorial service last night at O.Henry’s for the 49 people murdered in the Pulse club in Orlando exactly a year ago. Cantaria sang, and though I bitched about having to do it, I was glad I did, glad what was happening was happening. It was a sweet, sane event, and all around the city was blotted out and the only things visible were the green encircling hills.

I admit that I can’t quite get my head around “drag.” There were several drag queens present, in costumes which seemed to me attention-grabbing and therefore disrespectful. One adjective for the dress might be “extreme,” another “hideous.” And yet the word they want to have applied to themselves is “brave.” I know this because they say so. Aren’t we brave? Aren’t we courageous being “out there” and being ourselves? I don’t get it.  I might come closer to getting it if I believed that witch-harpy-satanic-diner waitress-Joan Crawford-flora dora girl was anybody’s authentic self. On those moments when I feel myself suppressing myself, it is to give others room to breathe, to allow space in the room for all egos. This concept is foreign to the drag queen. If someone says “too big” the impulse–never suppressed–is to go bigger. But sometimes too big is too big, merely the truth, a caution and not a tyranny. Nor can drag endure anything in its proximity that is not drag. After hearing about the fabulous deal one got on these fabulous heels for a solid twenty minutes, one mentions poetry or politics or some anecdote from real life and is met with eye-rolling and groans of “boring.” One friend valorizes his fashion sense by pointing out that he does drag, as though one thing were linked with the other. I want to say, “Drag is to fashion as video games are to adventure,” but I never think fast enough to work my wit in at the right moment. Maybe I’d think different if I didn’t look wretched in a dress.

Drinks and glad talk at the Indigo Bar. Flirting with the car valet.

June 12, 2017

Rewrote and completed The Assassins’ Garden to enter it into a contest, received a notice that the contest had received sufficient entries and is now closed– a week before the deadline. Some smirking power in the universe wants me to content with improvements to the play. No.  

Monday, June 12, 2017


June 11, 2017

Exceptionally awful night. Two rounds of muscle cramps, the first heinous. At one point I recognized that the pain was unbearable, and yet I was still required to bear it, for no other options were available. I would have taken ANY option to make the pain stop. If there had been a rooftop or a pistol there would at least have been an option. The demon rose and occupied my mind at the same second, so there was double-fronted war. I screamed so loud I thought someone on the dark street might come to my aid, but no one did. And, lacking a pistol themselves, what could they have done? The second round was much less acute, though I wondered why an entire bottle of Gatoraid had not availed. Then, of course, all that liquid upset my stomach. But now I am awake, and not too groggy to drive to Waynesville one last time.

Gatsby has been fun for me– the fun just overbalancing the tedium– because of the jollity of the dressing room. The play is not exceptional of itself, and our performance of it illustrates what happens when people do not look at acting as an art form, but as a ritual of self-actualization. I kept running in my mind the ways a scene or a speech could be better if someone had simply experimented, had done it subtly differently, had continued working rather than hitting a level of acceptability and setting up camp. I was and could be again a good director. It is one of those things I left behind because it took too much time.

Saturday, June 10, 2017


June 10, 2017

Sultry, the study fan blowing heartily against me. Painted with less pleasure and success than I have become used to. My studio neighbor, having been told several times to put nothing in the sink but water, leaves stinking pools of leafy dye debris and bit of salad from her lunch. I scour them out with a paper towel, retching repeatedly. The stomach weakens with age. Decided to fill up some holes in the garden– white hibiscus, spiderwort, buddleia, something else I have forgotten the name of. Digging the hole for the buddleia, I unearthed three feet of old maple root and a major infestation of termites. All the bits of wood were riddled with them, and the ground heaved black bodies. I wanted to leave it open for a flicker or something, but the chance of that arrival was too slim, so I washed as much as I could out with the hose.  Rabbits and chipmunks came out of the greenery as I watered. The meadow rue is seven feet tall.

Friday, June 9, 2017


June 9, 2017

Painted steadily in the morning on an old work I was trying to finish. I once prized it for its austerity, but I don’t prize anything for its austerity very long. Now it’s crowded and rather ugly–or at least odd-- though every individual passage is rather beautiful. Visitors from Florida and Venezuela.

Mockingbird singing his heart out against my studio window--

Three more performances. The boys in the dressing room are, despite the jibes and witty insults, loving and gentle with each other, allowing the most extravagant vanities and suffering purple idiosyncracies without comment. Each boy’s weaknesses are noted and ignored. Each boy’s virtues and triumphs are referenced by the others whenever possible. If each boy were as sexually triumphant as he lets on, the world would be peopled again; if he were as fine an actor, he would already be in the movies. And yet they encourage one another further and higher. I have not heard one criticism of another’s character or past or performance or anything else. Not one boy has failed to declare sexual desire for the other, and though of course it’s joking, it’s a way of getting out into the open and gone emotions which did damage in my “day” because they had to remain strictly subterranean. I used the image before of being in a room full of my grandsons. It is a mixed and unexpected blessing.  They are shallow and ignorant in some ways, deeply informed and masterful in others. In a world whose secrets are encoded in pop music and sci-fi films, they would be sages, and I would be an idiot. I’m content to be able to sit and listen, though perhaps, to some degree, they are performing for me, Whatever is going on, I am happy and grateful, and will miss them, if not the long drive and the long wait.

It would be interesting to creep next door and hear what is going on with the girls. I bet the two rooms would seem like different planets, one smelling rather better than the other.

June 8, 2017

Knee agonized, walking like an old man, the study stairs almost impossible without the rail by which to haul myself up. I think arthritis? A blood clot? Slept on it funny night after night? Then I thought, “it’s the shoes!” It’s always the shoes.  Felt some relief the instant I put new shoes on, though perfect restoration is a ways off. Terrible feeling taking a curtain call Monday morning and hardly able to make it across the stage.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017


June 7, 2017

Session with K- whose secular name is revealed to be C. He talked of being a TV commercial star and a performer in Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas. He said of the Cirque du Soleil, “it’s not anything like you think,” which I contradicted in my heart, because I hadn’t any particular preconceptions. Much gentleness, much stimulation, much talk at cross purposes. He is stupid and kind. Stupid trying to be cunning is, sometimes, off-putting. As sensuality without sexuality is, after a certain point, perverse. One short play finished yesterday, the ending of another discovered at the café this morning. Relief in my heart over that like a physical truth.
June 5, 2017

Matinee for Haywood County school children. They were a good and attentive audience, and gave honest reactions to what was going on onstage– which is to say, they laughed when Myrtle was slapped and when Gatsby lay down in his swimming trunks and when everybody was shot. Spiritual upheaval leveled off by the dailiness of things . . .

Sunday, June 4, 2017


June 4, 2017

Somebody broke into the shed last night. They took whatever was on the top two rows of shelving, but, to be honest, I don’t remember what that was. All the stuff I actually use is still there.  A drill. A giant tarp.  A machete. Maybe the machete’s being in the wrong hands is a little alarming.

The music from the original Godzilla drives through my head. It is actually quite motivating.

Went downtown for the Asheville Contemporary Dance recital at BeBe. Had a rum and coke at the Vault on my way. The recital was quite good. I thought that if it were in a studio in New York, it would fit in, would be treated as a peer among the best. Asheville is lucky that way: we have some art that is the equal of any, some of it innocent of its own achievement, and some that is so undervalued by its audience that it is almost laughable. I ran through my mind how exactly it is that one enjoys modern dance. Pleasant movements of pleasant bodies? Delight in abstract patterns, or in personal bravura?  If I choreographed I would never be able to pull completely away from the narrative, as both these choreographers did. Are the movements symbolic? Not always, nor does the same person or the same gesture always represent the same thing. Is a particular gesture or expression meant to evoke or suggest a particular emotion? Does it, or is it merely the hope of the artist that it might? I think it’s probably naive to ask for meaning, but I am always looking for it. I suspect the human mind in general looks for meaning and pattern, and will never be completely satisfied without. Stopped at a place called Athena’s, which I discover two weeks before it closes to make way for an expansion of Tupelo Honey. Downtown was thronged, and there was one customer beside myself in Athena’s. Stopped at Sovereign Remedies on the way back to the car, and then, for I forget what reason, at Ingle’s. Let me advise against drunk grocery shopping, especially when you’re hungry. To summarize, a grand night like grand nights of old.  Must get out more. Must get downtown more. Meet new people. I feel better in every way than if I had not.

Matinee in a few hours.

Saturday, June 3, 2017


June 3, 2017

Sultry end to the day. Sent out manuscripts, mostly, and repaired some in order to be sent out. Had temper tantrums. Went to the studio and met a patron who bought the small Blue gray gnatcatcher on cardboard, and Bronze copper, a butterfly I had painted just that morning. I sent him off with copious warnings that it was wet and to be careful. Big, sweet kid, from Swannanoa, now living in Raleigh. He wanted the butterfly because his mother, when she was dying, told him to remember her whenever he saw a butterfly.  I’d painted it just that morning, having not in several years painted a butterfly. God is mostly a brat, but sometimes the timing is just right. Dance tonight, downtown in time for a drink . . . .

Friday, June 2, 2017


June 2, 2017

Movie night with the boys, the new King Kong, which, like the latest Godzilla, assumes the monster to be a sacred guardian misunderstood. This is a leap forward, and I am glad to see it in my lifetime.

Good painting (mostly the revision of a big old work) and heroic weeding in the garden. Got back into the market, after having sold all but four or five of my positions, expecting the market to crash. That it can shrug off the Trump indicates either madness or confidence; anyway, I’m back in at nearly the old levels, though I have, for the first time, whopping savings accounts– just in case.

Back to HART tonight, our first meeting after the Review. We’ll see what the mood is. Promised to go to C’s dance recital; bought the ticket, so now I must.

Thursday, June 1, 2017


June 1, 2017

Parent’s anniversary.

Working on a new play. Twenty pages and I don’t yet know what it’s about. Painted in the AM. Returned to find G hard at work on my lawn, after I’d almost given up on him. The grass was long and the thatch now is heavy. He weed-whacked a bee-balm and a clump of sorrel, but in most things he’s exemplary, so the lips were sealed. Another client had him dig up a sizeable rhododendron because one of its branches was dead. He gave it to me from the back of his truck, and I have planted it, hoping lying in the sun for a couple of hours with its root ball drying won’t be fatal. I want this one to grow. I want orphans and rescues to prosper. Watered it copiously. Watered the new coreopsis at the edge of shriveling.

Z’s conversation topic during our session was, oddly, playwriting. He allowed me to enrich my conviction that to set out to “make a statement” in a piece is always fatal, even (or especially) if that statement is itself praiseworthy.