Fact: I was in San Francisco for the 1989 earthquake, I was in NYC for 9/11, I was in London for 7/7... London again for recent riots, here for recent earthquake and now incoming Hurricane Irene. As some might ponder: what is up with that?
Really, I don't get it. Now, the good news is, anyone who knows me should know: I seem to get through these things OK, so if you are actually in my physical orbit, you should be OK. I am also not part of the CIA or some alien species that affects the weather or whatever. It's just weird.
Speaking of 9/11, I am happy to report that tomorrow, or soon anyway, Indie Theater Now will be publishing No One as part of its 9/11 play series. I kind of love that play, because I wrote it in November 2001, and it was raw and just emerged and was effortless in a lot of ways. There are mistakes in it and some bumpy bits, but I decided to not go in an revise it as that was more in tune with the time - which had done something profound, which is make me (and a lot of other people) realize: life is real and messy and happens and cannot be contained in nice boxes, no matter how sophisticated the wrapping paper may be.
What I mean by that is in my first play Word To Your Mama, which I'd written in 1998-1999, there was this sense of America living somehow 5 inches above the ground, there was an unreality to how everything felt, like somehow we were skimming along the surface - the internet being a perfect metaphor for this - the Net. And then 9/11 happened and it broke the mesh. I've written about this elsewhere in a text for a piece I created with Cathy Turner in 2003 called An Alliance, but it bears repeating. Because there was this moment, and it was (badly) patched over pretty quickly, but there was this moment - that first month before Bush started pummelling the shit out of Afghanistan - when I thought - oh, really, maybe, can it be? Can the US join the rest of the world? Can we accept we are part of all of this and maybe like just be here and actually learn something from this? When Bush took off his shoes to walk into a mosque, I did think - wow, maybe something can really change.
But, no. No. Emphatically not. The US had to go in and create a useless war in Iraq, etc., etc. We know how that sad take ends. But it is sad. Because we had a chance. And the fact is this - that hole was blown through the mesh of our so-called security and everyone knows it. But there are all these absurd attempts to forget it, masking tape mesh on top of other mesh and the like.
But OK, wait, that was not what I wanted to say, what I wanted to say is: when I wrote that play, I did feel to some degree a connection with something and the beginning of a very real desire to disinvest from the patriarchy at a molecular level. It changed the way I made work. I accidentally moved to the UK and even more weirdly ended up doing a PhD (not precisely disinvesting from the patriarchy, that move, it must be said) and now I am back spinning through life, wondering where the bouncing ball may come to rest again. Disinvested? Not sure. Don't think so if I'm honest. If I was disinvested, I wouldn't care about my reputation or getting recognition for my work, or - gasp - paid for it. And I do. I suppose to truly disinvest I'd have to live off of nuts and berries in some remote corner of Canada or New Zealand or something. And I don't.
What I do know: I love NYC still, again, wildly, absurdly, abjectly. Which just keeps shocking me, the depth of it. I kind of fled in 2003, didn't realize that's what I was doing at the time, but was so freaked out by US foreign policy and what was happening with the flags Everywhere - even in NYC - I just felt I had to get out and I did. Now, having lived in London for 8 years, I see this kind of thing happens everywhere. It's not a US specialty. In London right now, there are young people being put in prison for writing "pro-riot" related stuff on their Facebook page or Twitter account. That's scary. That is frankly scarier than the riots.
So perhaps in this global capitalist world the moral of the story is it is truly global and it is incredibly hard to live outside of its logic, like say in the Middle Ages if you weren't a Christian in Western Europe. Very tricky that. So, too, not buying into the dictates of capitalism. But it is a problem, because the logic of capitalism (profits above all else) is like killing the planet not to mention the vast majority of its inhabitants. Why not then live here in its beating heart, along with every other whacked out artist and misfit who can't fit in anywhere else on the planet?
But what shall we do? Me, I write plays, direct them and write other stuff, like a blog and prose, take photos, perform strange solo shows every once in a while. Does that amount to two shits? Honestly, right now, I don't know. I used to think my work could change a lot of things, I still believe in the power of artistic expression, but I don't know if I believe in it as much as what was accomplished by the direct non-violent action taken by the young people in the Middle East. On the other hand, there must have been a creative thought process at some point, stimulated by something that conceived of non-violent action in the first place.
I do know that writing matters, because it communicates ideas and feelings, and when done cogently people in power are more threatened by words than anything else, whether that's political, corporate or familial power structures. Speaking one's truth, no matter how directly or indirectly, through stories or other more non-narrative strategies, can really freak people out. So, I hope what I am doing with words matters. I also hope that what happens in some theater spaces matters, too. That is less quantifiable, but I suspect living bodies in a room, tapping into the rules of that room, do matter. But in a very subterranean way - viral but not in the Youtube way - in the underground circuitry that no one advertises on...a very different channel altogether.
What I do know matters, too, though, are the amazing people who raise children in happy homes - I am thinking now of my cousin Darcy and her husband James and their sons Simon and Leo. Living with them for a week showed me what true love is in action, no saccharine, no bullshit, just for real love. And that, that is incredibly important. So much that is important, like this kind of love, is unnoticed, and maybe that's the point I'm writing myself into now...
It's probably the least visible, least iconic, least 'momentous' or credited stuff that is the most important, is the most non-violent and leads to whatever is good in the world between people happening more. Anonymous stuff, in my experience, being some of the most profound actions taken. And probably the most meaningful.
The opposite of celebrity. Anonymity. Long may it continue.
However, having said that, I do not mean by that invisibility, because many people, and I'm thinking now of sexual and domestic abuse survivors, have been scorned or frightened into invisibility, and that is scary in a different way. But there is something about principles above personalities and attraction rather than promotion that I find to be important and perhaps that is the key to disinvesting from the patriarchy at a molecular level - letting go of ownership of an Image or a Way to be Seen, including an Image of 'disinvesting from the patriarchy' etc.
And so is there a way of being seen that does not involve celebrity? And by that I don't mean Celebrity but the kind of weird presentation of self on Facebook and the like, like say, oh blogs...I am trying very hard not to fall into that trap, but is it possible? Can I put my name on something and be really truthful? And by 'truthful' I mean divorced from image or trying to convince me and you of a certain 'me' that is ready for the public domain? I think perhaps that level of purity, if that's the right word, is probably impossible. And perhaps the word purity is a good tip off as to why it's not gonna work. Because as I heard someone say recently, principles before personalities is a great idea, but we're personalities, not principles! Principles are platonic, are ideals, we are not ideal. We are impure. And so we are.
So perhaps it is the principle of anonymity in action but within an all-too-human human, which of course we all are, even if Nietzsche wanted us to grow out of it. Can we? Really? Is it perhaps better to accept ourselves as limited, incomplete, conflicted? Or is that a cop out? Too much acceptance? Or is the opposite just arrogance?
How I got here from upheavals of earth and bombs, I don't know, but I did. And as much as I'd love to wrap it up in a bow, it's just not gonna happen. I could do that, but it'd be wrong and nowhere near true, just another made up fiction...
So, instead, I log off.
Welcome to my blog..
"We struggle with dream figures and our blows fall on living faces." Maurice Merleau-Ponty
When I started this blog in 2011, I was in a time of transition in my life between many identities - that of Artistic Director of a company (Apocryphal Theatre) to independent writer/director/artist/teacher and also between family identity, as I discover a new family that my grandfather's name change at the request of his boss in WWII hid from view - a huge Hungarian-Slovak contingent I met in 2011. Please note in light of this the irony of the name of my recently-disbanded theatre company. This particular transition probably began in the one month period (Dec. 9, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010) in which I received a PhD, my 20 year old cat died on my father's birthday and then my father, who I barely knew, died too. I was with him when he died and nothing has been the same since. This blog is tracing the more conscious elements of this journey and attempt to fill in the blanks. I'm also writing a book about my grandmothers that features too. I'd be delighted if you joined me. (Please note if you are joining mid-route, that I assume knowledge of earlier posts in later posts, so it may be better to start at the beginning for the all singing, all dancing fun-fair ride.) In October 2011, I moved back NYC after living in London for 8 years and separated from my now ex-husband, which means unless you want your life upended entirely don't start a blog called Somewhere in Transition. In November 2011, I adopted a rescue cat named Ugo. He is lovely. As of January 2012, I began teaching an acting class at Hunter College, which is where one of my grandmothers received a scholarship to study acting, but her parents would not let her go. All things come round…I began to think it may be time to stop thinking of my life in transition when in June 2012 my stepfather Tom suddenly died. Now back in the U.S. for a bit, I notice, too, my writing is more overtly political, no longer concerned about being an expat opining about a country not my own. I moved to my own apartment in August 2012 and am a very happy resident of Inwood on the top tip of Manhattan where the skunks and the egrets roam in the last old growth forest on the island.
I am now transitioning into being married again with a new surname (Barclay-Morton). John is transitioning from Canada to NYC and as of June 2014 has a green card. So transition continues, but now from sad to happy, from loss to love...from a sense of alienation to a sense of being at home in the world.
As of September 2013 I started teaching writing (composition and rhetoric) as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. While felt blessed for the opportunity, after four years of this, the lack of pay combined with heavy work load stopped working, so have transferred this teaching passion to private workshops in my own apartment and working with writers one on one, which I adore. I will die a happy person if I never have to grade an assignment ever again.
I worked full time on the book thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign in May 2014 and completed it at two residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Wisdom House in summer 2015. I have done some revisions and am shopping it around to agents and publishers now, along with a new book recently completed.
I am now working full-time as a freelance writer, writing workshop leader, coach, and editor. Contact me if you are interested in any of these services.
Not sure when transition ends, if it ever does. As the saying goes, the only difference between a sad ending and a happy ending is where you stop rolling the film.
For professional information, publications, etc., go to my linked in profile and website for Barclay Morton Editorial & Design. My Twitter account is @wilhelminapitfa. You can find me on Facebook under my full name Julia Lee Barclay-Morton. More about my grandmothers' book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani
Recently, I started a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. I will be blogging there, too, now. You can also contact me through that site.