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. So blessed for the opportunity and hope to find a more permanent job doing same.

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 having written a rough draft of a new book and some other projects.

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.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Winter reveals more than it conceals

I realized this walking through Inwood Park today.  As the leaves fall more becomes visible - the structures that underlie what is clothed in warmer times.  Those are the rocks and there is the contour of the hill, now you can see the water from further away.

The cold ground and all the loss brings clarity.  Isn't it true...of grieving and so much more.  Or as Rumi says:

Sorrows are the rags of old clothes
and jackets that serve to cover,
and then are taken off.
That undressing,
and the beautiful
naked body
                     underneath,
                                  is the sweetness
                                                that comes
                                                        after grief.


Here, now, there are still small riots of color here and there, little drops and bursts, all the more beautiful for the grey or darkness surrounding them.  Then there is the ground of leaves.

I found bits of this in Maine, too, even though it had already snowed - bright red apples clinging to trees, the slant of afternoon light on the pond just so - crimson orange if there is such a thing.

It's all about the colors today, so will give more space to photos than words.  One note though, when I stopped to take the photo below with a bird next to the pink roses, two birds flew in to be in the picture.  Only in NYC, I thought, will you find birds trying to upstage another bird in a photo.

But here, too, the people on the benches just looking out at the water, or walking through the darkening woods, happy just to be alive, smiling as we do at each other, nodding, an acknowledgement - yes, here we are, yes it is beautiful even if it's no longer redorangegold.  It's something else beautiful.  Nodding again to one another as if to say: yes, I see that, too.  I am also glad to be alive, grateful to have found time during a day to walk in this end of fall into winter day.  To see the last colors, to acknowledge what is passing away.  To simply breathe.  To know we are always already passing away.  Yes.  But we are also here now.  Yes.  Where yoga meets Derrida.  Yes.

scene stealing birds below the one on top - or perhaps they are spear carriers

















Maine - near my parents' place - yes the red things are apples in tree

pond outside their house

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Interesting Generational Karma

OK, so like my grandmother Jani, as anyone who has been religiously reading this blog may know, got a scholarship to Hunter College in the 1930s to study acting, which her parents would not allow her to take.  (And I must interject here that having read some of her letters in her later years in which she made stuff up about her life whole cloth, this story about the scholarship may not be true, but because she told me this in a private moment the summer she was dying of cancer and we were alone in the cottage in Maine -  I will go with it is true...or even if it isn't fact ... when she told it to me it was true)

Well today I was given the job of teaching acting (one class only, so still adjunct) at Hunter College.  I find this to be not only great news in general but kind of moving because of the personal history here.  I did tell the woman who runs the department about this when we spoke back in October.  This was the interview, as some readers of this blog may remember, in which I realized after the fact that I had a small bit of blue toothpaste on my forehead near my hairline.  So it is truly a miracle I was hired.

The even greater miracle is that the woman who runs the department, Barbara Bosch, was excited about the work I have created in NYC and in London in labs and saw, as I do, that this work can form the basis for acting classes.

So I'm quite excited about all this as it's a place I really want to teach, has an excellent program and is still part of CUNY, which means it is (relatively) affordable and therefore inclusive.  As much as I am getting out of teaching at BCC, I will be really happy to be teaching in my own specialist field again.  And in my beloved NYC and at a place with a distant family history (even if apocryphal...I'll never know...but as my theater company was called Apocryphal Theatre...do I need to know??)

I still feel a kind of dragging sadness about Vickie's death and an undertow of sadness in general.  However, my experience is mostly of happiness.  It is very hard to explain this so won't even try, but it's true.

Ugo continues to get happier and more affectionate.  My good friend Shawn, who I've known for 30 years from Wesleyan, was over here today and played with him.  We walked in drizzly rain (very London-like) to my favorite cafe and had lunch and talked for hours in the way you can only talk with someone you've known for 30 years and with whom you share some core values and experiences.

Taught early in the morning like usual so am crispy fried like usual while writing this...

But ending, as has become a recent habit, with a gratitude list: for the new job of course, great friends known for years and new friends, too, rooms to which I can go and heal for free with others who need to do the same, the ability to teach and give something back, my lovely cat, supportive parents and the guts I was graced with to make this leap to NYC...plus the basics: food, clothing, heat, shelter and good health (especially important when you don't have health insurance!)...and speaking of which: a city which does offer free and low cost health care if you hunt around for it...

Finally, a prayer for Vickie, that she is happy and peaceful wherever she is and in whatever form or formlessness she now inhabits.  And to her family and friends that everyone can console one another and give love and strength where needed and hold space for grieving.  I wish I could be there to join you at this time.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A day of service and sadness/happines

No day anymore seems to be entirely one thing or another and I suppose that means I'm growing up.

Today was my friend Vickie's funeral and I could not be there with her friends and family and that is sad. If anyone was there that is reading this, please know I am sending you all my love and Vickie, too.

What I did do after teaching, which does feel like service, which is a good thing in my world, btw.  I don't  say that to sound martyry or like I'm waiting for violins but as an indication that what I am doing is something - hopefully - that is more about the other people involved than it is about me.

The second act of service was meeting my friend Eva to help her with her baby while she had an appointment about her breast reconstruction surgery.  So I got to play kinda-mom, including one of those little pouch things.  It was an odd and interesting experience.  Her son Oliver is a joy, and just seems happy most of the time, so it wasn't hard.  The one moment of possible temper tantrum (he's only 4 1/2 months old) was averted deftly by a great man on the subway who started talking to Oliver in a way that made him laugh.  This guy said he had grand-kids and did the same with them.  It was kind of great to see the 'it takes a subway car to raise a child' thing kicking in, like I always assume it will in NYC, but then when it does, it's kind of great.

Eva is doing well considering all the things she's been through and Oliver is the cherry on top of the Sunday.  It was funny to be regarded as the mother of a baby.  Eva was there but Oliver was in the pouch on me so there was some confusion.

Here's what I noticed: you get a seat on the train, but the person with you, in this case Eva (the actual mother), does not necessarily get a seat.  Teenage girls find babies and mothers annoying and ignore you and your need for a seat.  Older people of all races love babies.  Babies are heavy.  I am way better with babies than I thought, though I still don't think of myself as having any natural maternal skills.

I went back to Eva's place in Brooklyn and watched her be a very good mother, then watched her husband Stu follow suit by being a loving father.  It's these simple things that astonish me.

I read The Liar's Club all the way home and it continues to rock the house.  No one should be allowed to write a memoir before reading it.  However, given the contents, I both love every minute and I find it dragging me into dark places...

I wish for Vickie safe passage on her journey.  I wish Eva long life.  And for the record I still hate cancer with a particular dislike reserved for breast cancer that has taken or affected way too many people I love.  Stop it.  Just stop it now.

This is causing a kind of depression-exhaustion in me, this grieving, these mortality fears and many other losses on the way or in mid-stream.

Gratitude today for my cat, Ugo, who is getting braver and more affectionate, my most excellent friends, a job that (hopefully) means something, good books to read, family members that love me enough to be honest on all levels, food, shelter, clothes and the fact I am back in NYC even after all that...and for the ability to have my own adventure, even if it has taken this long...a bed that I will be inhabiting soon...all of you friends of BW and LW out there - thanks for keeping me alive and some degree of sane.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Inwood's still here & Ugo the rescue cat is happy

Interesting to come back to a place, it makes it feel more like home.  Ugo the rescue cat was quite happy when I came back, purring and rubbing up against me, following me around the house and he gets along with Marietta as well.  This is wonderful.

Had a fairly unevent-filled plane ride, which is the kind you want - marked papers on the endless A train from Howard Beach to 207th and then went to a meeting about the play reading at the cafe we all love.

Marietta is still here so we're having a slumber party tonight, which is really the only way to describe it when you have a guest in a studio apartment.

Finished marking stuff and now need to go over lesson for tomorrow.  Marietta doing the same for her students.  Peaceful up here dotted every once in a while with loud Dominican music coming from a passing car.

Oh, the most notable thing about the day of possible use to you: I started reading The Liar's Club by Mary Karr.  It is extraordinary.  A memoir written by a poet.  She has raised the bar, well, I guess I should say she is holding up the bar along with Joan Didion, who originally raised the bar and now hurls it past us mere mortals.  Didion is in the stratosphere right now and can only be admired like a shooting star or a meteor shower.  Karr is about 7 years older than me but in my vicinity, so I can relate to her better and hope to learn from her more easily.  She also comes from chaos and has found her way through that,  personally and as an artist.  Another reason I can relate to her.

I read these women and hope to learn from them.  I need to learn from them to make anything worth reading out of the various writing projects I am attempting.

For now though back to the vagaries of non-verbal communication, the better to explain Chapter 6 in the text book to my students...verbally.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

When is it time to let go?

This is a question that is big for me right now for lots of reasons.  It has to do with my husband of course and how long do we stay in the separated zone, when is it time to let go for real and what form does that take?  It also has to do with other things, old ideas, dreams, desires...what stays, what goes...

What is still about me and what is about some Idea of me I've lugged around for decades and may be ready for a renovation?

A lot of my Stuff will be arriving soon.  Movers will bring boxes and boxes of my books and papers and some clothes and linens.  It will smell of London.  It will make me cry.  There won't be room for all of it.  Then what?  Storage?  Throwing stuff away?

My books, my writing, my memories - these are the closest I have to a home town.  I don't throw any of it away easily.

I don't throw people away either.  Sometimes I cling to the wrong people.  Sometimes I run away from the wrong people.  Sometimes I just don't know.

There's a lot of change happening, that much I know.  Transitioning to NYC artistically will not be like magic, that much is clear, too.

I have a meeting tomorrow with two people involved in the reading of We live in financial times, the director Rik Walter and the actor Marietta Hedges, who is also de facto producing the reading.  I will fly back to NYC to this, which is lovely.

There are other places that are not being so receptive and I have to live with that, too.

I watched the video I made for Southend on Sea in July - showed it to my parents who were quite complimentary.  I was surprised, not that they liked it, but that I kind of still liked it.  I saw the problems, but am happy with this idea of video painting and want to see where I can go with that, photos and performance of text, etc.

This means letting go of my prejudice against video on stage.  So many prejudices I've had to ditch recently.

I must add however that even though I bought the smart phone, I still am not convinced it was the wisest idea, since I can see how ADD it makes me.  Hearing the little tinkly sounds when emails appear, "just checking", etc...I do that enough with my laptop and now there's another version.  Oy.

Could not sleep last night, which was surprising, because I have slept well here, but tuned into the sound of the overhead fan below me and could not not hear it.  I share with my mother and father before he died crazy-sensitive hearing.  It's the horrible truth that when you Hear something you can't Unhear it...

Kind of like...well so many things...

On a positive note, my mother brought us to a beautiful yarn store today in Bath to pick out some yarn and a pattern so she can knit me a sweater.  Isn't that amazing?  Found a lovely rust orange wool that is very soft and a pattern for a hooded cardigan.  I'm very lucky to have a mother who knits, that's rare.  I am not one who knits, even though I hear it is becoming all the rage these days.

I am flying back to NYC tomorrow, to my cat - hooray - who according to Marietta has been walking around and even let her pet him.  This is excellent news.  I am very relieved to know he's not just huddled in a corner.

This will be the first time I'm coming back to where I live.  Will be interesting to see how that feels.  It was so strange coming to Maine and telling people I'm from NYC, no longer the one who came all the way from London.  Not so special, just another American coming from the big city.

It feels both comforting and strange.  Also weird was the feedback from a piece I submitted here (NYC) that it was too local to UK and "we don't see things like that very much here."  That made me laugh.  It is a local piece, made from found text from a building in Portsmouth, but the idea that I may now be too British for NYC is pretty funny in a sad kind of way.  Also, that it is too visual art and not theatrical enough.

I am some weird hybrid now.  This much is clear and it's not just about UK/US.  It's about artistic work and academic work, writing and directing, writing and photography and now video.  Various ways of going, labs and productions, plays and prose, philosophy and theater....I used to think all of these various paths were a problem, that adults Chose a Path and Followed It.  Now I'm waking up to the fact that I am a multiplicity and that choosing one path would be like cutting off a limb...this means I may not be as far along as someone who is on a more straight-ahead or mono-focused path but it also means there is a richness to what I am, who I am and Hopefully what I create.

And then too there is this weird thing - this blog - that I don't even know what it is anymore, if I ever did.  I write to you, who are reading it, but I don't know who most of you are.  I know you are from many different countries on many different continents.  I know some of you as friends and some of you who have become friends through the blog.  Most of you are strangers.  Who are you I wonder?  What do you get from this?  I am moved by you, you people whom I have never met that are reading these words and following my life as it changes.  I hope it offers something.  Please feel free whenever you want to respond.  Or not.  I'm just glad you're all out there reading...thanks.

My gratitude list for the day: my cat is OK with a new person, I have a gorgeous sweater coming my way, my parents love me and even get my weird art, I have great friends, one of whom helped me a lot today sort through some gooey emotional terrain, I have a reading of a play coming up, the house is warm, I have eaten well, I have clothes and the ability to travel, I do not live in a war zone and I am even employed doing something useful.  Sometimes people even give me money to create my own work.  Finally, I am alive another day and not killing myself through active addictive behavior, the primary miracle of my life is this: that I am alive.  And my life, as a good friend ceaselessly reminds me, is none of my business.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Win Win

If you haven't seen this film Win Win and you probably haven't because I don't think it made a big splash at the box office, you should.  I saw it once on an airplane and tonight again with my parents.  It is probably the perfect Thanksgiving movie, because it has zero sentimentality and instead shows real love, the consequences of lying when you've convinced yourself it's for a good reason even though it's selfish and why everyone deserves a second chance, even when they don't.

I must confess I am in love with Paul Giamatti as an actor.  I have yet to see a film with him in it that doesn't rock.  I just discovered now, looking him up on the internet to make sure I wasn't misspelling his name, that he went to my high school, which is weird and interesting. That means he studied theater with probably the best high school drama teacher on the planet, Terry Ortwein.  Terry died recently of Parkinson's and as he is an unsung hero of theater, I want to point out that one good high-school teacher can change your life.  Terry had confidence I could direct theater when I was 16 and let me go at it.  He never once came to one of my rehearsals.  When I asked him why, he said it's because he trusted me.  He was spectacular...the kind of teacher that probably saw in Giamatti a brilliant actor and made sure he pursued his dream, which he did and thank the gods for that.  He was also the kind of human being Giamatti plays in Win Win - a basically decent person.  In the film that guy is challenged ethically, etc., but it's his core decency that is so compelling and moving.  I am always amazed when this kind of thing is portrayed in film because it's not 'dramatic.'  Which is why I love it, not being a big fan of drama real or imagined anymore...

The other films Giamatti has been in that are must sees are of course American Splendor - about a cartoonist on the outs...and also follows a real love story - messy, weird, idiosyncratic, kind of amazing.  Barney's Version is also excellent.  It's not as standout as American Splendor, but because Giamatti is in the film, it's worth watching.  Flawed characters, living through stuff, who break your heart.  Watching him, it always feels like the sidekick gets to be the star, and maybe that's the charm for the rest of us, the proverbial, real and fictional 99%.  He's there standing in for us.  Excellent.

There is something so moving about seeing real humanity on film, not airbrushed stupidity.

I am obviously not a film reviewer, and make no claims to be, but I am sharing this with you as people who read this blog - because I'm pretty sure anyone reading this blog would like these films and this actor.

And since I've decided to become amateur critic for the evening, I'll stay on a roll and say the other person you must read if you have not is Carson McCullers' Reflection in a Golden Eye.  Her Heart is a Lonely Hunter is pure genius...and this new book is like a perfect haiku of fiction.  She writes with such precision, grace, wisdom, compassion, love and eye for human frailty, all without ever sounding above it all or like she, the author, is somehow immune.  A real feat of fiction writing genius.

I went to a bookstore today and bought a book that has been recommended to me about 1,000 times, Mary Karr's The Liar's Club.  I love her observation in her preface to the 10th anniversary volume of the book, in which she describes meeting person after person who cries when meeting her and tells her she's written about their life too, that her definition now of a dysfunctional family "is any family with more than one person in it."  Hilarious.  This is my kinda woman, I can already tell.

Plus since I'm kind of stalky with David Foster Wallace and since for a period of time they were together, I'm sure I'll get some mileage out of that creepy nosiness about other people's lives that I am not immune to - like at all.

I have begun to find a bit of balance with my smart phone.  I am entering contact info, resenting that I have to do this since others seem to have had stores do this for them, but can't complain too much.  Also discovered the cool feature where you can enter what you're looking for and it finds it near you.  That is also creepy though because it means It Knows Where You Are...so I'm both thrilled and anxious about this Thing's power at the same time.

Finally, feeling guilty as a cat owner who split town and keep wondering how angry Ugo is at me, and hoping it's not too bad.

Grateful for this day, and for the ability to feel grateful, notice beauty, see snow, see little red apples on a tree that has not dropped all of them, go to a good bookstore, eat good food, feel love from my parents and others, and know that for all the sadness of the losses, there is a new freedom and a new happiness that is coming into me...some of you will know I somewhat plagarized that last phrase, but hey whatever.

I am free, I am on my own adventure and I keep realizing this over and over again, and I am grateful I can feel that, too.

Be well everyone and be grateful for even the tiniest of things because they are a gift, too.  In the film Win Win that is kind of the moral of the story.  What appear like losses can be wins and holding on to what has or is walking away from you can kill you and trying to cling to your idea of what life should be will hurt not only you but others.  And finally - being basically decent is the smart move.  Even if it's not glamorous it's the real win win.  Thanks to you who made that film and to all of you who have helped make this a lovely day for me (and to people like Terry Ortwein who made stars of some and dedicated experimental theater folk like me out of others)...You are all rock stars in the way that matters most.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Post Turkey Post

First things first - hilarious segment on The Daily Show about Evacuation Day, which is either the day of or after Thanksgiving...apparently this was the holiday before Lincoln declared Thanksgiving Day a national holiday.  You can see it here on Daily Show.  Evacuation Day celebrated the day the last British troops left Manhattan in 1783 and marks the end, or close thereto of the Revolutionary War.  If you want a good laugh, I suggest this.

This day has been a weird one.  Lovely meal, meeting some friends of my parents and all like that, but also this melancholy in anticipation of the holidays, especially as the last Christmas had been particularly emotional and as my mother said tonight we all - she and my step-father and me and my husband all acted as a team because there were some physical difficulties and such to contend with.  This is true and it was a time not only Bill and I but we and my parents were close.  And to have gone from that to separation in July seems precipitous and hard to somehow reconcile.

And as we all know 'holidays' = 'family' = You Should Have One (a family) and if you are my age, you sure as shit should at least be married or have a Significant Other or whatever and not be wandering around not knowing who to put on the forms where it asks for who to contact 'in case of emergency' - and even now when you have parents still, there will come a time when you won't perhaps and then what...etc.

So that's always fun.

I then went to a meeting of people like me and talked about this, which relieved the feeling somewhat, and made me grateful for such basics as: I'm alive and I'm not actively killing myself through addictive behaviour.

I should add that before this day began I slept for something like 11 hours, and am about to go off and do the same again.  Sleeping is great and the older I get the more holidays are about this - sleep, rest and feel all the pent up shit I haven't had time to feel.

Finally, I want to say that even though I am sad and angry and frustrated and all kinds of other things, I don't  feel I need to sit around in camp grief anymore.  This is probably the biggest change.  Even though, hilariously enough, I feel guilty about that like I'm somehow disappointing my therapist in London who I don't even see anymore or I may become - gasp - shallow - if I'm not crying all the time or taking any opportunity that I feel sad to cry all night.  I called bullshit on that last night before going to bed.  I was crying and crying and then I wanted to go to sleep.  And it occurred to me, with the force of revelation: I'm allowed to stop crying.  And I did and I went to sleep.

I'm not sure I entirely believe this even as I'm saying it, but some part of me said it anyway.  This seems like a kind of freedom I didn't even know I had.  I have valorized this sadness for so long, it feels somehow irresponsible to let it go.  But, as sad as I still am and as many tears as I may still yet need to cry, it does not have to take over my life.

Wow.

Advanced shit.

For me anyhow...because it took so long to allow the tears in the first place I think I'm afraid if I don't cry a lot I'll forget how or something.

This reminds me of what happened when I was having a massage a couple weeks ago and realized: it's not the sadness I'm repressing, it's the happiness.

I know I still have a lot of tears, I can feel them welling up as I write this, but there's more to the story.  I really feel that, too.  I've felt doomed for so many years because this woman looked at me once, startled, when I was 18 and said 'you will know a lot of suffering in your life' and I laughed nervously when she said that and added 'yes, but a lot of joy, too.'  I don't know why I said that, but I meant it.

I would officially like to say - as of today- goodbye to the sense of dread I have had ever since that woman said that to me over 30 years ago and begin embracing my own prediction of a lot of joy, too.

Let it be.  I pray that this can come next.  Or even, like, now.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  Gratitude is always a good place to start.  Thank you for reading this, whoever is doing so, thanks to the universe for food, clothing, friends, heat, basic good health, some amazing places to go to heal for free, books, art, a gorgeous autumn and my lovely cat, Ugo, and the cats I had who have died and knowing Vickie who died last week (God/desses bless her and may she be how where she deserves, which is somewhere beautiful and kick-ass where people have amazing red hair and a damn good sense of humor) and my parents now in the form in which they manifest and even for all the other stuff because it's what makes me who I am...(and also, for some reason, I feel compelled to add to this list David Foster Wallace for being such a great writer, teacher and person who really should be alive and isn't and that sucks but in whose honor and Vickie's I want to promise to find a way to find something beautiful in every day I live from here on out...it's a gift this life...a real unearned gift)

Peace out and all like that.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

In Maine with New Smart Phone

Yes I went over to the forces of darkness and bought a smart phone, but not an iPhone, she said in hopes that made her less horrible, nor a Blackberry but an - an - an - Android.  Which I can use unimpeded by weird extra fees for a mere $35/month (thank you Virgin Mobile - and no they aren't paying me anything to say this but probably I should ask)...and has already begun driving me insane and to which I already pay too much attention, and am not sure I even know how to find the text messages on and have already doubled up email accounts and managed to stare at all day - the down side.

Up side: sitting at Laguardia waiting for a plane for over 2 1/2 hours flew by as I freaked myself out trying to figure out technology that I can't figure out.

Down side, we're driving in Maine - beautiful Maine - out of the airport in Portland and to Brunswick and my mother says: see there's a lot more snow here.  I look up FROM MY PHONE to see this gorgeous snow-scape I had been missing.  Oh, it is bad, bad, bad...

Now I'm here in Maine writing this blog, this time on my laptop.

We are now and officially: People of the Screen.

It is wrong, deeply wrong and I am part of it.  Steeped knee deep in it.  I AM it...

And, having prayed for my life and that of the other 29 passengers on my plane (it was that small) going through turbulence for over an hour, I am about to sign off from bucolic Maine, with fire in gas fire place, the gentle thrum of a quiet dishwasher, my Android on silent  (my Android which I already believe secretly is inferior to an iPhone which frankly I cannot afford...and has a separate qwerty keyboard, which is good because my touch and swish skills are below par...oh God please make me Stop talking about this...)

I am hoping Ugo is OK, already miss the beast, but know Marietta will take good care of him...sad, too, to be in Maine by myself, already not looking forward to Christmas, a time my husband and I used to enjoy together up here away from everything...had a little cry in the bedroom...then back downstairs to stare at screens...I so want to be over the loss/grief bit...but I guess I don't get to press fast forward on that...shit.

Time for sleep.  Happy Thanksgiving folks...tomorrow will report on food and the importance of the next day...Evacuation Day and no, it's not what you think!


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Guest rant about 'smart phones'...


I got an extended response to my smart phone rant yesterday and because on top of everything else some people can't leave comments on my blog for mysterious reasons known only to She Who is All Powerful Who We Don't Know Who She is Except that She is Not Us...Kristine sent me the below rant by email.  With her explicit permission I am reposting it.

And for the record, I STILL spent time today watching (yes I said WATCHING) reviews about smart phones...even though some part of me wants to throw up my hands and give up - this would be the wiser part of me...

But at least this much I know: no contracts.  They are insane(ly expensive).  Beyond that I'm still stuck...which is just weird, because it simply does not matter That Much.  

But now over to Guest rant from Kristine:

I succumbed and bought one  ("smart", not so sure) this past month.  Had a stupid phone for decades and sort of took for granted the luxury behind punching in a number, pressing redial and voila, a human.  Since I lack training on the depth, breadth, usage of this phone, punching (you don't punch  -- you must focus, take a breath, tap with feather-like precision WHATEVER the f @#k you want to do or you end up in very dark places) . . .

I'm having a difficult time with it.  In fact, I hate this phone but now I'm addicted.   

When my Verizon contract expired, I SO wanted to go with Credo / Working Assets, that 1%- going- to-charity-making- a-difference, but after reading that Verizon has some kind of satellite connection that emits LESS radiation to your ear-brain and concerned that i wouldn't have a satellite connection AT ALL living in boons, I went to the dark side.   I do like the camera / video capability and, yes, Julia, peer pressure played a part.   I have no qualms about admitting that -- the beauty of aging - you simply don't care.   I've never been part of a pack.  Now i'm howling at the moon.  

This ridiculously expensive phone which I got on sale b/c of my 'loyalty to Verizon' (this makes me far sicker than the peer pressure comment), features an internal robot named 'Siri' that you 'communicate with' to ostensibly set-up appointments.  I walk through the tedious 5-step process and am on the verge of setting up the appointment when she says "I am unable to do that."  Siri's a sadist.  

So there I go,  inadvertently disconnecting calls, launching games and apps I don't remember downloading,  randomly punching Siri's button and when i'm not jumping out of my skin wondering why Siri's calling, I want to wring her neck for not setting up my appointments which are few and far between these days which brings us to the real reason I'm a tad bit frustrated.. 

I have finally accepted that, along with the rest of us, I've been officially cast in a Phil Dick novel.  End of story. 


Kristine's rant proves something very important: I am not alone.  There are others like me.  And weirdly enough, I have met some of them, like Kristine, on the internet.  Originally I met her through my Linkedin group 'Independent Theatre Artists and Producers' - which if you haven't joined yet, feel free to do so.  There are now over 2,200 members from All Over the World - every continent and multiple languages.  I am proud of that.

Had a fun afternoon with Dana who I met at the BlogHer conference.  She came up to Inwood, which was not so pretty today as it's cold and rainy - alas.  We are about the same age and couldn't be more similar and different at the same time, which amuses us both no end.  She wrote a book and created a website/blog (listed on my blog roll) called Momover and has a delightful, light voice, which is a patina covering a lot of depth of soul and heart.  I am in awe of people like her, because I spend a lot of time in my little corners making experimental Stuff when people like Dana who clearly is whip smart, funny and interesting, manages to write and communicate on a much more accessible level.  All hail to you, Dana and thanking you in advance for the beauty product care package.  

Earlier, I managed to crawl through my class today on 'perception' (yes I find the humor in that as well) and now tonight am about to pack - hooray - for Thanksgiving.  A good friend Marietta will be staying at my place with lovely Ugo...who - stop press - did Not run under the sofa when Dana walked in the apartment.  This gives me hope that he will get along with Marietta and not be too freaked out about having a babysitter.

I do find myself pre-missing him, perhaps because it was when I was in Maine in December 2009 my cat of 20 years died.  Just made that connection.  Ouch.  Well with any luck Ugo, who is young, will make it for 3 days with a caring sitter.

He's been playing a lot and when I was typing the above, he came over to be pet by me.  He still isn't crawling up to the loft bed, but he's definitely feel this is his place now, which is just so great.  

OK, time to go finish grading mid-terms.  That would be a better use of time than watching reviews of smart phones...sigh.

Monday, November 21, 2011

the madness of 'smart phones' and product displacement

OK, so like, I have a dumb phone.  I've been pretty smug about that, that and not being on Facebook.  But the dark side is luring me and I'm thinking: maybe I Too 'Need' a Smart Phone...what kind should I get?

And you know, with all the stuff I should be focusing on right now, what did I spend my time doing today on the computer: looking for the Right Smart Phone...and you know what that makes me: stupid.

My theory is that smart phones make you stupid, make you pay too much money for something no one on earth actually Needs, but which you start thinking because Everyone Else Has One (including all your students) that You Too Must Need One.

The Dark Side.

I did have some emotional experiences today, I did teach, I did share my story with some women.  I did all that.  But what took up all my spare time?

Right, you guessed it, the fucking phone thing.

Wrong.  It is So Wrong.

So, tell me people: am I delusional?  Do I 'need' a smart phone or should I just hold with my little red replica of a tin can sweet but dumb phone that has actually caused me no problems, heart ache or made me take up precious time on a computer combing through reviews, statistics and trying to sort out the Best Deal....

I think I know the answer but feel free to chime in.  I already feel like an idiot...

Oh but to something that actually means - like - anything - I received an email from someone I met recently through this blog telling me remarkably similar stories to mine regarding her various transitions through life.  We were marvelling how these things all seem to come together...Perhaps it is this time of life, perhaps it is coming from certain kinds of chaos plus this time of life, but no one I know around my age give or take a few years seems to be immune.  There are upheavals all around...

And of course, too, there is Vickie, who in this manifestation has had the final upheaval.  Which makes me realize there is yet another thing to be grateful for: I am alive, and as far as I know, healthy.  I can afford to eat and even bought myself a bunch of probably-little-more-than-placebo-stupidly-expensive vitamins, green stuff and herbs to combat nature's final trick on women: turning them - when they turn a 'certain age' - into the equivalent of steam heated NYC apartments.  One moment hot, the next less so and then finally, maybe even cold.  It is - um - unique.

I find myself hideously embarrassed saying all this, especially as I am 'only' 48 and it seems like this is coming on a bit early for my tastes and now I'm convinced no man will ever want to be with me ever again so telling myself I don't care, etc...hideous.  Speaking of which I spoke with my husband from whom I am separated (an unwieldy phrase that I have no other way of saying...anyone have a word for that?  if so, could you tell me?  we're not 'estranged' - we're not even particularly angry at each other - we're just separated and kind of sad about that but not sure we'll ever get back together...what do you call that?)...a good but sad conversation, some recognition, some forgiveness...can't really put it into words for a number of reasons...

So, like, why not care more about 'smart phones' - it's so much easier!  The great American past time, product displacement.

It's time to go take green stuff that tastes like crap, and lots of vitamins and pretend I'm not sweating too much and that it's just the radiator actually....denial...I don't even do That well anymore...sigh...

But seriously, I am enjoying this time by myself now - there are times of loneliness of course but there are also times of expansiveness and freedom.  It's a real mixed bag of tricks.

And ain't that just life...

Ugo is more and more playful by the way and it just makes me so happy.  Hooray for that.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

old friends

Today I got to see my friends Renee and Shawn, both of whom I've known for 30 years.  And I'm back in touch with another friend, Spencer, who I've known almost as long as that.  There were other people at Renee's party who I knew in college, and the sense of continuity is wonderful.

As my life changes and changes the grace note is always the same: old friends.  I mean we are now actually getting older, too, so the meaning is a bit double-edged.  But that's not the emphasis here.  For me it's about knowing people I've known for that long - knowing how much we know about each other, which is a hell of a lot.  Knowing the many struggles, the joys and the fucking tenacity in some cases that has gone into making the lives we have now.

I am so happy to be back in NYC, for one thing these people are closer.  But even more than that, there is something vital I am drinking in that is hard to describe but I am not sure I would be getting anywhere else.

I miss some people in London very badly, but I am very glad to be living here.  I think I have said this before, but it is just becoming more and more the case.  I am happy to be happy to be where I am, which I don't remember feeling since the last time I lived in NYC, which kinda tells you something.

I also had a meeting this afternoon with Mac Wellman, who is a very interesting and kind of wonderful playwright, who very generously gave of his time and ideas to help me figure out places to go with my work and for teaching, postdoc work and the like.  Usually when I speak with people about this stuff, they want me to narrow my focus, and it was a relief to speak with someone who seemed to understand all the worlds I am straddling and had a natural affinity to the level of experimentation in which I engage.  I cannot tell you how rare that is these days.  Usually after these kind of conversations, I feel - well - tired.  And after this one, I felt energized.  So, if you're reading this by any chance, thanks, Mac!

Meanwhile, in NYC there are people drumming in front of Bloomberg's house and multi-faith services happening in support of the Occupy movement.  I hope the ball keeps rolling, because it's one of the most exciting things I've seen in ages.

There are also leaves falling everywhere, beautiful yelloworangereds...have they always been this beautiful?  Is this simply the first autumn I ever noticed it?  If so, that means my 8 years in the UK was worth it if for no other reason than to keep me away from this beauty long enough to really See it for the first time.  There is really gorgeous stuff in the UK, too, but this Northeastern autumn thing is special.

I imagine everyone feels that about wherever they grew up though....that That's the one that matters.  So far I've had these conversations with numerous people who grew up elsewhere and they say, well I grew up in the _______(south, midwest, Seattle...) and Nothing Beats the Autumn There...But never mind...for me, it is here and that is all I need to know for now.

There is simply nothing as moving to me as this time when there are still some brightly colored leaves on trees, but also bare branches, the last vivid colors before winter with its paler palate.  It's like nature's poems instead of prose...those little bursts here and there.

And here is Ugo...finally, thanks to photobooth...as amused as I usually am to be photographed, but for those who have asked....










Saturday, November 19, 2011

a simple mental health day

Sometimes I need days like these: get up later than I expected, meditate shower and go to meet with some likeminded people to get better.  Go buy some healthy food and vitamins with a friend from that meeting. Spend time finding a birthday present for a friend I'm meeting tomorrow.  Go home, put stuff away, go meet some more friends briefly.  On the way home get wrapping paper and some other things.  Come in from outside and Ugo the rescue cat is on the windowsill and as soon as I start petting him, he purrs.

And for all that and my gladness for this day, I am very tired now.  I think I am still recovering from all the transitions and the speed of them.  I feel I could and probably should sleep for about a week.  But will I??? Ha.

Made a decision to sit still for a while, though, not make any more big moves.  Not now.  Time to breathe and after Dec. 8, when my intensive teaching schedule ends, just take a bunch of naps.

No, I didn't get any writing done today other than this.

That will come.  Right now, it's got to be enough that I did stuff I need to do to take care of myself, mentally, spiritually and physically.

Do I believe that?  Sometimes.

I was telling someone else that they should believe that earlier today.  So easy to do That...

I am now going to sleep crazy early so I can get up early to do something for a friend.

My times have certainly changed since I was younger....

Good night, be well, take good care.

Friday, November 18, 2011

walking and talking and yoga and Ugo the rescue cat

that was my day.  got up later than I expected so rushed to a meeting with Rik Walter who will be directing the reading of We live in financial times.  Fortunately, he lives up here so was close by.  We discussed possible ways that could work and I experienced the twin feelings I always do when I hand over my work to another director: relief and trepidation.  Not, I hasten to add because he said or did anything to cause concern, but simply because I am a fucking control freak.  And yet I know this is the next right step and I'm really grateful he wants to work on the play.  Plus he has some good ideas already, and that is heartening...and even more importantly, a vocabulary of ways he sees the play that I don't have.  This is the reason to have a separate director, so hooray for that.

Martin Denton told me a couple days ago that I am the second highest selling author on indietheaternow.com, which was a complete surprise.  So, if you want to push me to number one, head on over (link on blog to the right) and buy some plays!  They are super cheap and we, the authors, actually get a percentage, which is novel.

Maybe I will someday think I'm allowed to call myself a writer.  We'll see.

After the meeting with Rik, I took a walk through Inwood Park and met a woman named Celeste who is a healer/shaman type.  I do not understand why I seem to run into so many people like this, but I do.  She complimented my hat and we got to talking.  It was a pleasant conversation, though I must confess that because my father worked for a New Age channeler type person and considered himself a Toltec, my first response to this kind of thing is anxiety and skepticism.  However, I've had my share of pretty intense spiritual experiences, so it always strikes me as hypocritical, this anxiety.  It's all the same stuff with different words attached, I suppose.

She gave me this lovely green stone, which I have put on my three shelf shrine thing.  See what I mean?  Who am I to judge?

I wondered too as Vickie had just died if there was some connection.

I then walked through the woods to see the remaining leaves and the fascinating between place of autumn and winter.  There was a crispness to the air and that inimitable smell of fallen leaves.

This afternoon I spoke with friends and contemplated some different projects but then just took a nap.

Tonight I took a yoga class, which was meant to be restorative but was instead pretty intense.  It felt good though.  It's nice to find out I can do way more than I think.

Returning back, Ugo was out and about and I've been petting him a lot and playing with him.  He even tore around the house in a cat frenzy, which was delightful to see, because it means he's comfortable.  He's now crying because I stopped petting him to write this blog.

I am still deeply sad about Vickie of course and have been hearing from some of her friends and family.  I feel so far away, but the feelings are still there.

So glad I didn't have to teach today.  Instead just kind of collapsing from cumulative tiredness.

I had intended today to revise my short story again and send it out.  This did not happen.  I hope to do so tomorrow morning.  Wish me luck.

I do want to not lose sight of my writing, and am trying to strike the balance between not doing that and  not expecting more of myself than can be reasonably expected.

Some photos from the last week or so, then signing off...

today as leaves begin to fall away - light is amazing I think

Ugo looking outside - because need flash can't get a good face picture yet!

just a week ago...

and again...



Thursday, November 17, 2011

My good friend Vickie died last night - fuck.

I fucking hate cancer and I have a particular hatred for breast cancer, especially when it steals away a star like Vickie S.  It's just not fucking fair that someone who is 50 years old, who has a 14 year old boy and has spent the last 4-5 years healing herself dies from fucking breast cancer.

You have to understand this about Vickie, those of you who will never have the joy of knowing her because she died too fucking young.

Before she was diagnosed, she had already gone through grieving for the death of her father and her cat.  I met her in rooms where we went to recover from another disease that had almost killed us but from which, because there is some grace, there is a way to heal if you're willing to put in some work and sit around drinking lots of pretty bad tea or coffee in church basements and random community halls.

I was at such a meeting telling my story when Vickie walked in distressed and crying told us of her diagnosis.  I thought in that moment: thank you God/dess for allowing me to be here in this moment.  Thank you for allowing me to be there for someone else.  That was very important at the time as I was dealing with my own grieving, which was OK, but then again, sometimes it's just fucking better to be there for someone else.  And that was one of those days.

And then I watched Vickie do something for the last two years - fight this fucker cancer with all her might, even when she got the even worse news it had spread to her liver, even when she got the good news in the middle of her treatment that it had disappeared and then again when it came back.

She did not devolve back into her - then - secondary illness (the one we share) and she kept at the forefront the whole time not only her own recovery but her son's well-being, he who was 12 when she was diagnosed.  Perhaps he was 13, actually I'm not sure.  But young, too young, WAY too young to go through this.

She set up family holidays (and in fact a few weeks before she died, they were in Cyprus).  Because she is British, she did not have to worry about health care costs and because she worked for the Camden Council, she had good pension/disability payments.  So the last 2 years she spent fighting her illness and spending as much time as possible with her son and husband.  For his sake, she did the last round of chemo that almost killed her, so she could be around for those precious few more months - which turned out unfortunately to only be weeks.

She wore this amazing red wig she bought when her hair fell out, she always got her nails done, she had acupuncture, and she did the traditional stuff too.  She reached out for help, and we all - her friends - were there for her.  I was only peripheral really in comparison to her friends who were there for her continuously.

We talked sometimes and at key times.  She was so crazy generous in her praise, way too generous in my opinion.  All I did was say: fuck, you must be furious!  And she would laugh and say: YES thank you for saying that, I am fucking furious.

Why, why, why do so few people give each other the space to be angry at illness?  Why is that?  Or is that just a female thing?  I don't know.  In any case, I get the sense this is what I was able to give her and I was glad to be able to do that, and so now because it comes naturally and in her honor, I'm STILL FUCKING FURIOUS.

Because like what the fuck?

She was 50, she was gorgeous, she was doing everything right you could do right, she loved those around her and was loved and still...this.

I know, btw, I've read Job, so please spare me any scripture in response to these questions.  I get it.  But it still pisses me off.

And makes me sad, sad, sad.  I'm shaking my fist between sobs, as I'm pretty sure anyone reading this can understand.

I got the text this morning from my friend Barbara and had to decide if I should go teach or not, which I did, because I knew for a fact if Vickie were in that situation, she would have gone to teach.  No personal tragedy was enough to keep her from doing service, of all kinds, including for the meetings we shared as well.

I saw her one day before I left London, walked her back to her house with my friend Dave.  She had come to lead a meeting even though she was weak, her skin beginning to look translucent, like very old and sick people's skin does - she was gorgeous in that eerie way people on the verge of death are gorgeous.  I knew it would be the last time I saw her.  And I just sat there like an asshole - making stupid jokes as I recall and waiting for her son and husband to get home because she didn't know where they were, we were drinking tea that Dave somehow managed to make us, his hands shaking slightly, keeping up a brave face.  He had had his own fight with cancer, still is fighting it though hopefully will remain all clear and so this was no simple friendly visit for him.

So far, he's made it and if he's reading this: Dave you're going to be OK.  If not, I'll kill you.  And that goes for others I know will probably read this like my mother, my beloved cousin Darcy and my friend Eva.  You're not allowed to just go and die like this.  It is simply not on.

And the saddest thing for me is that right now I am in NYC and teaching so I cannot fly to London and be with my friends.  There was a pretty tight group of us and now I'm here, exactly where I need to be, but right now that feels hard.

But I just have to say, Vickie, wherever you are: you are a star, the world is dimmer now with you gone, but I hope/pray/believe that you are lighting up some other place or some other dimension.  I know you weren't a big God person so I don't want to impose that language on you or your memory.

I will always remember your 50th birthday party though, all of us dancing, your hundreds of friends, so delighted you were alive.  And you made that happen, too, you knew we all needed a party and you did, too, and so there was: a party.

And I am so sad you are now no longer with us and that there will not be a 51st birthday party.  It seems so unfair.

I love you and I send blessings and love to all who knew you and will miss you, which are many, many people, because you were brave and beautiful enough to let us all in, even when you were dying, even when you were weak, even when you were happy, even when you were scared, you let us in.

Thank you.  You have been a blessing.   You are a blessing and one of the bravest most loving people I've ever known.  I will never forget you.  That much I know.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Gratitude and Desire

Somehow those two things seem almost opposite: gratitude and desire.

Gratitude implies: I am happy with what I have.  Whereas desire implies: I want something I do not have.

But sometimes I can even feel gratitude for desire, to know I am alive, still here in human, imperfect form and not dead yet as the old man says in Monty Python and the Holy Grail...

My beloved cousin Darcy just called, we talked for a while and I need to go to sleep so will keep this uncharacteristically short.

Ugo the Rescue Cat has been happily destroying some of his cat toys, meows when I try to go to sleep, but won't climb up to my loft bed.  We'll see how long it takes for me to give in and start sleeping on the fold out sofa.

He also freaks out and crawls under the sofa periodically, fellow PTSD creature that he is...

But now to bed with paradoxes hanging as it were...have to wake at the crack of fucking dawn to teach interpersonal communications...to a bunch of students who are as big fans as I am of the morning.  Why, dear Lord, why does Anyone Schedule Anything in the morning.  It is so wrong...



Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sexual Abuse in the News

Listening to everyone talk about the notorious Penn State abuse opens old wounds, especially the idea that there's no one to tell.  I lived for a time with a crazy, violently abusive babysitter (and also weird snapshot and body memories of my first step-father that make me nauseous and scared), and, as the people on radio are talking about, I had no one to tell.  This whole issue of talking outside of school - whether it's family, a caretaker, a coach, whatever...it's so debilitating, the silencing of children - it's almost worse than the violence or violation itself.

And when you grow up, you think: I can't say anything about anything or even worse: it must have been my fault because I didn't say anything and a horrendous distrust of your own reality.

Listening to the woman now on NYC who was abused by a caregiver when her parents were not available for various reasons rings so true for me and it makes me ill.  She's talking about her father said you don't talk about things outside of this house, we have to protect your mom.  And I remember that and it's been a life's work moving outside of the silence.

The issue of controlling the child is so key.  Because I have so little time to write tonight, I'm writing while listening to this report and it's kind of making me ill.

All I can say is: it's not fair to expect a child to talk about abuse if they don't have the language or anyone safe to talk to about it.

There is a lot of other stuff I'd like to talk about tonight, good things happening in my present, but it's hard to segue here, so I will leave it at this.

And please, anyone out there who is protecting an abuser: please stop.  And if a child talks to you, please listen.  And if you find out a child has been abused, DO NOT ask them: why didn't you tell me?  You will be scarring them for life, making them believe it's their fault.  Please just listen, be there and tell that child she or he can trust him or herself and apologize for not being or seeming trustworthy enough for whatever reason.

Trust me, I know.

Be safe, be well and do your best to protect and love those more vulnerable than you.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thanks before Thanksgiving

Things to be grateful for:

3 invitations to spend Thanksgiving with friends, even though I already made plans to spend the time with my parents, the fact that I have such amazing friends is moving to me.  I forgot this about Thanksgiving - it's what people do here - round up the strays (such as myself) and bring 'em in for dinner.  That's lovely.

So Nanette, Alyssa and Eva - thanks so much for making me feel like I'm home.

Ugo - rescue kitty - now lets me give him tummy rubs and purrs.  He is feeling more and more safe every day, explores little bits more of the house and seems to be basically out of his litter box - except for today when friends came over and he had to retreat.

Having had a massage a couple days ago, the woman was rubbing my shoulder and I wanted to cry and did a little bit but realized that I am not repressing sadness or tears, what I was doing was holding on to my sadness and not allowing happiness.

Just now, rubbing Ugo, I told him: now can be your happy time (I had noticed a little bit of his ear looked as if it had been clipped at some point - perhaps by someone or something and that made me sad and angry).  And as I was telling him that, I started telling myself that.  Maybe this can be your happy time now, too.  Maybe this can be the happy part.

Grateful for my friends who came up to visit today, Christian who brought me tea, Fred and Pamela who brought their amazing baby Evelyn and we all went walking in the gorgeous Inwood forest, which prompted the gasps of admiration and wonder I have grown accustomed to as I bring New Yorkers here one after the other who've never seen this forest and these leaves before.

Autumn is ending, I can see the leaves beginning to thin on the trees, but it's still spectacular in a different way.

We came back here and I made pancakes with Christian's help (gluten free pancakes, doncha know), which felt warm, friendly and nice to do.  Evelyn gurgled and waved.  We ate pancakes.

Another friend Eileen came up after her Ultimate Frisbee games and we meditated together, which is our interesting friendship ritual - quite calming for us both.  Then we ate food from the farmer's market, apple cider, cheese and bread.

What a lovely day...

I did do some work as well, getting some plays formatted for publication...and now I need to get stuff together for teaching tomorrow so will sign off...But want to leave you with one more thing to be grateful for...this quote I ran across from Thoreau:


"Let us spend one day as deliberately as Nature, and not be thrown off the track by every nutshell and mosquito’s wing that falls on the rails."

Oh what a goal, what a goal....g'night.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Part 2 - Watching the dance contest of Saturday Night Fever

OK, so just watched the dance contest sequence from Saturday Nigh Fever.  The first one, our heros Tony and Stephanie basically fall in love in white - her with one of those flouncing 70s dresses that were never a good idea but were wildly popular, Travolta in The White Suit.

What I forgot was the Puerto Rican couple that comes afterward - dressed in red and clearly better dancers.  The horror on Tony and Stephanie's faces as they realize they are being outclassed.

I actually have to wait for after the commercials now to tell you what happens next, because I don't remember.  Maybe the fact I watched 34 (!) years ago has something to do with that.

Oh God I think I'm going to faint because I'm so old...

** Ugo the cat update during commercial break: he has been out and about this evening, was able to pet him and even give him a tummy rub...he is now under the sofa again...but he's getting ever more comfortable and exploring little bits of the house more and more **

Back to the movie - Tony gives first place statue they one to Puerto Rican couple because he knew they were better and sees the contest was rigged.  Even he sees the racism.

He tries to force Stephanie to have sex, which she fights off then watches the young woman who has been trying to sleep with him basically get gang-raped by his friends, one of whom ends up falling off the Verrazano Bridge - a friend who was not part of the rape and is fairly clearly in love with Tony, too - not overt gay content, but implicit.

All of this would have gone over my head I'm fairly certain.

Travolta had been on Welcome Back, Kotter, which I would have watched and began to think of again when teaching at Bronx Community College.  Welcome Back, Kotter was a show about a high-school teaching in the Bronx who had left the Bronx but comes back to teach - hence the 'welcome back' part. Travolta and others are his difficult to handle high school class.  Hence the comparison in my own mind...

Now Tony - having huffed away from his friends after one died falling off the bridge - is on the subway - with graffitti - it's the 70s!  I think he may have made it to Manhattan...yes, and let's see what happens now...Stephanie lets him in and now...a commercial...

US commercials: everyone looks Way Too Healthy and Happy.  It's kind of disturbing.

And we're back and they decide to be 'friends' but it's obviously more than that...

Moral of the story: if you find your way to Manhattan life gets better.

This was the 1970s, just as a reminder, so Manhattan would have been affordable.

OK, very tired now so gonna leave it there.  I watched the movie mostly to see what on earth I was being exposed to circa 1977 as I'm sure weird bits of it have stuck.  I was looking anywhere for clues about how to live.

For what it's worth, I'm still in Manhattan, even if on the edge about to fall off and the only buses up here have a B for the Bronx...And of course Brooklyn is not now what it was then...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Writing while watching Saturday Night Fever

OK, so this is a first, I'm blogging during commercials while watching Saturday Night Fever.  And yes, I am old enough to remember when it came out - the mid-70s.  My mother and I went to see it - that was the same period of time we saw Rocky, Network and Star Wars.  Providence, Rhode Island, the days of disco.  And my parents at the time were way into it.  I was not.

There were two ex-lovers of my step-father living upstairs and my memory is of people going out lots of nights and me (ages 13 and 14) reading Homer, doing my art work and hoping it would all go away.  But then also enjoying the energy in the house and the fact I had a lot of freedom, even if I rarely exercised it.

Watching the film is such a blast from the past - NYC - the 1970s - and of the course The Twin Towers - which I realize now date a film as 1973-2001.  And I am trying to re-imagine what my mother and I must have said to each other after the film.  I enjoyed going to films with her, because that way I got to go to the R-rated films and it was time we spent together.

It's interesting reading the film now, because it's so interesting the classism involved, the desire to get out of Bay Ridge, the 1970s recession, people aspiring to be outside of themselves but betraying themselves while doing it.

OK but watching the first dance sequence in the rehearsal studio between Tony and Stephanie I am struck by: real bodies, leotards, people brave enough to look really stupid.  Later, the blinking lights, smoking is good for you and there is this obsession with The dancing.  There's something so heartbreaking about the whole thing - like a kind of strange innocence about to be slaughtered.

However, Bay Ridge isn't that different truth be told.

And my God, people did wear all that stuff.  It reminds me mostly of Oskar, one of the Providence 'housemates' (and one of the many who died so young of AIDS), wearing his loud shirts buttoned down to show his chest hair...and the gay touch of clogs with socks.  But watching this I see him and that whole gay scene...dancing yeah...no fucking clue what was coming.

OK, now I'm watching Travolta doing the famous solo with the white suit and arm gestures, everyone's clapping and the probability is that he - the actor - did most of this dancing.  It's so cheesy that it's absolutely great.  I knew I would like this movie again.    I forgot about the brother who left the priesthood.  And the father on unemployment.

The obsession of Stephanie with Manhattan, moving there, as she tries to erase her accent and name drops the people who have come to her office.  She mentions Romeo and Juliette in terms of the movie by Zeffirelli and when Tony says 'yeah Shakespeare', she says no, you know the movie by Zeffirelli.  When Tony's about to have sex with another young woman he asks is she has an IOU for IUD.  I seriously doubt this would have made an impression then.

The vulnerability of the young men would have gone right over my head as well.  My hazy memory was that Stephanie was more sophisticated, not that she is aspirational, as the movie so clearly shows.

I was a teenager at the time, in a private school on scholarship, highly conscious I was not 'of them' and I wonder if I connected with this part of the movie then.  Or whether I saw it as some kind of window into the disco scene my parents were into then (this is my mother and David, my third father, who knew by then he was gay but they were still married).  Also the strange and interesting 'this is about dancing' instead of 'personal' used as a way to keep someone at bay.

And I identify even today with Tony's inability to see how his dancing and his talent with that can take him out of his world that he knows.

Just watched the next heartbreaking scene where it becomes obvious Stephanie is moving into Manhattan because of her involvement with someone from 'the agency' and her breaking down with Tony, who's brought her stuff into the city in a car saying he (this guy) helped her figure out stuff at work.  The guy has perfect diction and corrects her speech and criticizes what she is reading.  She has been trying to follow him.

Again, I remember that feeling - watching always for what to do - what to say, who to be...I didn't think that's what I was doing.  I experienced it as choice, but it wasn't, especially by the time I got to boarding school.  The vicious unsaid, never acknowledged US class system.  So different from the obvious, always present and always acknowledged UK class system.

OK, I'm still watching the film but have to post this before midnight because I committed to posting every day this month.

So, let's hear it for the 1970s, especially the era of films, which did not glorify only the rich or those who become rich.

Will post more about the film later when it's done.  The big contest night begins...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Everyone's settling in

So, today, well this week in general with my second group I'm teaching has been going a lot smoother and I'm actually enjoying it.  Just assigned them the 'go down to Zuccotti Park assignment,' after having a really good discussion about what 'intercultural' meant, different co-cultures and how cultures are created by perception and definition - by people.  We talked about the Arab Spring and what's happening here and how if people created 'it', people can change 'it' - and they seemed to get it, the students.

These are the moments you live for if you're a teacher.  And so I felt cheerful after even if tired.  Walked back across the bridge and marvelled again at the color of the woods I could see as I walked, happy to be doing what I'm doing and feeling proud to teach at BCC.

Came back home and Ugo the Rescue Cat was wandering between the cat litter box and the window sill. Tonight we had a lovely time with me petting him for a long time and earlier we played.  He's eating and now wandering around the living room and exploring more.  It's little steps day by day, but each day he seems more present and a little less scared, which is great.  I've had him since Sunday night, so this is night 4.

I spent my fun and exciting Thursday evening walking past the salt marsh, and saw what was either a loon or a heron, not sure which - then to the Cafe I like and marking papers.  From my first class.

Did as much as I could then came back here and listened to a lovely NPR radio series hosted by Tina Fey called "The Hidden Life of Girls," before devolving totally into TV watching - a real rarity.  But needed.  Just good old fashioned crap TV, including one show with an actor I used to work with on experimental theater and another one, which is attempting to Americanize Prime Suspect.  Needless to say, no one can replace Helen Mirren.  It's just not possible.  But it works as crap television.

In the midst of that I had the nice cat petting session with Ugo - whose name I just discovered today - originated from another cat who had the same name, looked just like him (my Ugo) but had died the year before.  The first Ugo was much loved, so much so that the woman who had owned him could not bring herself to adopt my Ugo because they looked too much alike.

I found this out talking to the original person, Ellen, who was feeding my Ugo, because I found out through my yoga teacher cat rescuer that she - Ellen - was a massage therapist (who was voted best massage therapist in the world by British Vogue don't you know), and I needed a massage.  Tragically, her room was too crowded with stuff from her apartment being re-done so through other connections have another massage set up tomorrow.  Somehow my shoulders need to be unfused from my ears.  This would be helpful.

As should be obvious by now, the world is very, very small...at least up here in Inwood-world.

I made a big decision today to Not direct the reading of my play We live in financial times, Part 1: Blackberry Curve and instead hand it over to Rik Walter, who I know is an excellent actor and have a good feeling about as a director.  This feels So right.  I so loved watching the reading last September and getting to be a 'real' writer not a one woman band.

So, January 20 and 21st at The Brecht Forum kids, be there or be ...well..somewhere else...

Feeling more and more each day: just let it be - do the next right thing - follow what's in front of me - all that seemingly bogus 'now' talk - but it seems to be real at this stage.

Finding myself forcing stuff less and less and breathing more and more...and the salt marsh (that I've been calling a tidal basin) just makes me so happy, smells like real tidal water, and all the ducks, geese, seagulls and this loon or heron and the egret...I love it so much.  It feeds my soul that has felt parched of beauty - for a long time now - lots of other stuff was available but not all this natural and urban and urban-natural beauty.  London is a lot of things, beautiful is not one of them, not in the areas I lived anyway - there are little pockets but it never sang for me, as much as I tried to hear the tune, it just didn't.

Inwood feels like a little piece of heaven handed to me for no reason at all.  Just like the little pieces of hell that preceded it.  You just never know what's coming.  That's all I know at this stage.

Oh and my final image of the day I will leave you with - walking in the park, a few strong gusts of wind and leaves falling everywhere like snow, but they were colorful leaves, a blizzard of leaves - and little kids screaming, but in a happy way, a delighted scream - scared-happy-delighted-amazed and the rest of us so-called adults smiling.

Nice.

Ugo says good night, too.  He's begun meowing - but it's not a meow, it's hard to describe.  But he's making his little noises.

Hooray.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

teaching tired and also freaked out new cat owner syndrome

Was delighted tonight to return home and see Ugo on the window sill instead of where he spent most of the day: in his cat litter box.  I ran around frantically this morning thinking he had been spirited away by gremlins only to find him placidly sitting in his box.  I then was afraid maybe he was sick, but called Sherri Cat Rescue Queen who assured me he had done the same at her place and that he just felt more comfortable there sometimes.  I was relieved but already close to late to teach and exhausted from another half-asleep night wondering where the cat was, if he was OK, etc...

Fortunately, he is now walking in the living room.  He seems, like his new owner, to feel more comfortable at night.  Unfortunately, his new owner has a morning job now.  Sigh.  If not, I'm sure he and I would be up all hours with the cat dancer.

It's so funny though how he hides during the day, but at night when I'm here typing away he seems most comfortable.  Also, like his new owner, kind of autistic and likes the same thing to happen in certain ways.  It is evening, she is typing in that corner, good.  She is going out the door, I don't know where, bad.  Etc.

So, there you have it, Julia's dime store projecting and anthropomorphizing cat psychology.

Alright so I'll stop.

I was lucky today to speak with two old friends in person, my lovely gorgeous wonderful smart great I couldn't love her more friend Nicole, who wandered about autumnal Inwood with me and had lunch at the cafe I can't live without and we talked and talked and talked and connected on the many levels we connect - head and heart, art and politics, life and the ways in which we both understand better than either of us would prefer trauma and therefore empathizing with Ugo too much and all like that.

Then spent the evening after getting my hair done and going to a writer's meeting with my friend Nathan who I've known since college.  There is something extraordinary about talking with someone you've known since you were 20 when you're both breathing down 50 - seeing we do look the same, but also seeing as we talked for longer the years - which have manifest in many ways including, thank all the gods and goddeses, in some level of wisdom and compassion.

We caught up on the death of parents, mutual friends who have walked similar paths to ours, and all the funnysadwonderfulheartbreakingstupidamazing shit we've done since we last saw each other.  None of which, I may add, had anything to do with Jobs or Careers...instead blood and guts life stuff...I love that.

Writer's meeting did its magic as it usually does, reconnecting me to my writer self without imposing a diagram on me as to what that's supposed to look like and before that - hurrah - found a woman named Chloe who can make my hair turn the same color Mark did in London.  It's the little things.

I even bought - gasp - some cosmetics.  Will she wear them?  Hmmmm.  I did for a while, then kind of gave up, now let's see what happens...

On the way back to my place, turned around on subway platform to see the outline of Bronx Community College on the hill, which includes some gorgeous architecture and thought: damn, that's a fine looking school.

I find it amazing how many things I think will be awful or just be sub-OK are turning out to be kind of secretly astonishing.  There are many hidden gifts when you stop trying to run the show.

How many years has it taken me to learn this?  A lot.  Will I forget?  You bet.  Am I glad I feel it now.  Yes.

And now, to bed, for my weary teacher bones...a blessed necessary early night.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ugo update plus more beauty

OK, so since I started blogging about Ugo the Rescue Cat I have seen a huge uptick in my readership.

So, what you want to know first:

He (Ugo) is playing with toys I bought him and a scratching post as we speak, right behind me.  When I came back in this evening, thinking he had decided to go live behind the sofa again, he was on window sill.  Last night he ate a lot of food and - well - made use of the litter box.

He's now thumping around and making a racket with things that have bells and cardboard.

I tried to take a photo but flash did something weird and it won't transfer.  He is camera shy!

However, having taken a long walk again today after teaching, I'll let Inwood after that speak for itself...

While sitting and looking at the water below I realized it's time for soul diving.  Time to give up whatever ideas for good or ill I've had about how my life Should look and simply make sure I am feeding my soul and let the gods and goddesses sort out all the achievement-recognition stuff.  I\ve been obsessed with that in one way or the other since dirt, and it's time to end the: when I've acheived x and y, I'll be worth z routine.  Yes, it's taken many tricky turns over the years and covered itself over in much more righteous clothing, but it amounts to the same thing: this or that external thing (usually recognition) will make me feel better and/or a relationship or whatever.  And it won't and it never has and never will.

I do know this: I love where I live more than I can ever remember loving where I live and I want to remember this and say a momentary prayer of gratitude for all this beauty, the great cafe where I can chill out and work and the general population up here, which includes everything from the hippest street kids to a couple teenage hippies playing guitar on the rocks, including - and I shit you not - Norwegian Wood.  2011...and Crosby and Nash were downtown playing at Occupy Wall Street.

What next?  The Beatles reunite after George and John come back from the dead???







Ugo is just playing and playing now...which makes me very happy.



To sleep....