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.


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The miracle that is Bronx Community College...

OK, so I'm toast after teaching two classes back to back at BCC today and was going to take the day off from writing, but then remembered the faces and stories of the close to 70 students I met today (35 in each class).  As a way to introduce them to each other and interpersonal communications, I ask them to break off into pairs and interview each other.  Before hearing these more in depth descriptions, I ask them to write down first impressions based on each student standing up and saying their name.  The contrast between the two is usually pretty interesting, and sometimes not at all.  In the second class we had time to go over first impressions, people could choose to hear them or not (they were given to me anonymously so no one would know who had had that impression), which to my surprise everyone wanted to do.  I started with me, so I could take fire first, and the impressions were hilarious, ranging from hippie (!), confident, nervous, calm, fun & energetic, funny, wise (!) to my favorite: 'likes own joke.'

Other students were pretty severe with one another so one student who was considered 'stylish' by some was considered 'snobby' by others.  I was impressed by the bravery of the students  - both writing down their real first impressions and being willing to listen to what others thought of them at first.

The reasoning for the exercise is to prove the basic tenant of interpersonal communications: we are never not communicating.

The reports from the interviews were quite interesting, and are what I was thinking of when I dragged myself off the sofa to write this post.  The countries I remember being represented today (most of the students are first generation immigrants, with a few born here of first generation immigrants) were: Ghana, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Wales, Italy, Mexico, Guatemala, Ireland, India, Pakistan with a few African American students in the mix.   There were more, but cannot remember them.  Most of the students live in the Bronx, East Harlem or Washington Heights.  A majority are teenagers/early 20s but many are late 20s into 30s with children and jobs.  They are majoring in such subjects as criminal justice, psychology, computer science, nursing, radiology and two want to be writers (I'm excited about that). Many were from mixed-race/national backgrounds.  It's such a rich and astonishing mix of people.

Most of them are shy to start but as they begin to talk with one another open up and there is this blossoming of the classroom, almost literally, from closed little isolated buds into a patch of wild flowers.  I know that must sound incredibly cheesy (which is perhaps why another student's first impression of me was: "serious and cheesy"), but it is an incredibly transformation.

In class I have tons of energy and am happy to be there, but as I am walking home, it is as if every last shred of energy I ever had is sucked out of me.  It feels strange that such a relatively simple exercise could take that much out of me, but I think the close to 70 students part is a challenge, because I want to connect and be present for each one of them, and that takes - well - energy.

This is the great teaching conundrum for me.  But, I hope to continue with the attitude I had last semester, which is: this is what I am doing, so let me do it to the best of my ability and see what happens.

I love walking back from BCC to Inwood, across the bridge in and among the families and young people that go to the college.  The whole area comes alive in a different way when I am teaching.  I feel a connection and an understanding that would otherwise perhaps not be there.  The same thing happened when I taught at University of East London.  I connected with the young people in my neighborhood of Walthamstow, knowing the language (slang), the attitude, the deeper concerns, gave a life to a whole group of people I knew before that only on the most surface level.

I suppose the sad part of this story is how rare these points of connection are, how divided we can be even when not wanting to be.

So, my gratitude for the day is that I can feel this connection here and now.  I wish I could have the time to myself to write and take photos, paint, make theater.  I can't help but feel when I started teaching again I was taking a step back from when I was making my living full time as an artist (a brief period before I finished my PhD), which I did only once I took the risk in UK to stop teaching.  However, I am grateful, especially here in this economy, that I can teach.

The conundrum of making money as an artist and my living from that is I am then subject to "market forces" and/or granting/government predilections, etc.  On the other hand, I know there is a belief that I have at times, too, that - especially at my age - if I'm not making my money on my artistic work alone, I'm a failure.  So I have to battle with that little juggernaut.

I then wonder why on earth I left the UK, even though I know why I left the UK, because I now am working freelance, adjunct with no benefits and no track record of receiving funding here because I created that track record in the UK.

Which is why I am now at Bronx Community College teaching interpersonal communications - which on the one hand is not my first choice but neither is it anything I would trade easily as work, life and teaching experience.

But yes: I would like a more stable way to make money or for the proverbial commission that changes everything, for someone to buy a book (based on the stories in this blog or the lives of my grandmothers), want to produce one of my plays on a more well-funded level and for this multi-layered, molecular vision that I have to be accepted in the larger world.  So, if you're reading this and interested in seeing any of these things happen and have money/resources to do so, I'm all ears.  Ah for the elusive patron!

Barring that, I'll keep puttering along and offering what I can into the universe as a combo writer-artist-teacher.

Please note my restraint in not talking about the Republican primary tonight.  It's all just too depressing and makes me think I should plot a way to live in the Orkney Islands for good.  It may be one of the few sane places left on the planet.  But, of course, if I lived there for a while, I'm sure I'd be disabused of that notion as well...I suppose it's all about what kind of insanity of one's own and others one can tolerate best.

I do realize the irony, by the way, of waxing lyrical about the students and then questioning if I'm a failure because I work as a teacher as well as an artist.  These contradictions abound in my life and consciousness as anyone who's been reading this blog knows.  I don't know anymore if these are to be 'resolved' or instead accepted as that - unresolvable contradictions - not sure it deserves the vaunted name of paradox or not.  But it does haunt me that perhaps what is holding me back is my own fear more than (very real) financial necessity - perhaps that's a holdover from the logic of my wealthy boarding school classmates who also chirped on about doing what you want and the money will follow.  This very well may true, but I think is easier if you come from a privileged background.  I really don't know...chickens, eggs and all that...but I'd happily accept a change in financial circumstance for the better.

I should add that most of my favorite writers these days: Mary Karr, David Foster Wallace, David Shields all teach and/or taught at universities...so this should tell me Something, if I'm willing to listen.  Like: if you want to make work of a certain kind of complexity, sometimes it's good to teach, too.  Plus, I actually like teaching...duh.

teaching acting is fun: time to bring on the dancing girls

Teaching acting is fun, there's just no getting around that fact.  Had a lovely, lively discussion with my Hunter students about what theater/acting is.  The idea was to have everyone address that question and move on to some exercises, but because there were 16 lively, interested/ing students, the discussion took up the whole time.

I am assigning them the book The Presence of the Actor by Joseph Chaikin as the textbook for the class, so it's not only about learning acting fundamentals - the focus - but also looking at what that means, how that can be seen as a social as well as artistic act, etc.  This was the book, alongside directing The Serpent (which was created by Chaikin's Open Theater and notated as a ceremony by Jean-Claude van Itallie) that changed my theatrical life and therefore my life.  It showed me how politics and theater can work together, indeed always work together whether consciously or not.

To have the privilege to share this with a room of young people is just that: a privilege.  To get paid, even if an adjunct's salary, a miracle.

Tomorrow, back to BCC and Interpersonal Communications - I taught it twice last semester, so not feeling as nervous as when I started back in October 2 days after landing in NYC from London with jet lag, having read the first couple of chapters on a tiny plane that got across the Atlantic via Iceland and then Goose Bay, Canada.  The Iceland Local as I dubbed it back then and probably wrote about here in October.

It's been a long journey from there to here in a few short months.

Oh and the big bonus is the walk across Central Park to get to Hunter from the West Side.  A gorgeous stretch in the high 60s, that can include a stop off at a cafe for a cappuccino, as it did today.  I am looking forward to smelling the grass and the baby sprouts and blossoms throughout the spring, watching the subtle transitions take place all the way to May.  That's the kind of thing I live for these days.

I have spoken to a number of friends about my age or a little older, and we all have the same experience: we now notice the seasons more, nature seems closer on all levels, even if we live in cities.  Is it that I begin to understand there will not be infinite springs?  That each one is precious?  I don't know.

I do remember delighting today in the sun and shadow sidelight of winter and saying outloud-ish - wow, this could be a great year.  I am too superstitious and have had too many weird-ass turns in my life to say it "will be" a great year - but I am praying at least for the openness to consider the possibility and to allow that in if it is possible.

I got a gorgeous note from a friend today saying she was moved by the last two posts, because one was so dark and the next one was filled with the connection to friends and warmth.  I told this to another friend who said: yes, they go together.

In the recent past, it's been the opposite trajectory, namely, light first then the dark.  Now, it seems to be going in the other direction.  In facing the darkness, walking into the closed doors and shadowy places, light can begin to shine through.

I'm terrified to write any of this, by the way - terrified something terrible will happen because of it.  The last time I was truly happy, my wedding day in 2007, was followed by the darkest day of my life - the miscarriage...a few years later when I finished my PhD, which also felt pretty amazing, my cat and then my father died.  I have reason to fear "good things."

But at least I do want to try to turn my face to the sun when it is shining, knowing - only too well - that it's a temporary kinda thing.  Then again, so's life in the end, right?  Maybe this is the "lesson" - even if I'm sick to death of lessons...I'd be happy as a clam to have the second part of my life be all about dancing girls and glitter.

Seriously.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Blessedly peaceful day

Had a very hard time sleeping last night after writing the post about the anniversary events of these past days, but today - even though hard to rise for its beginning - was lovely.

My friend Nathan helped me pick up two free file cabinets from a Freecycle donor, who turned out to be none other than the writer Katha Pollitt, which was quite a pleasant surprise.  Nathan and I know each other from university days and it turns out her daughter also graduated from Wesleyan (a mere 20+ years later but well anyway...) so we had a nice chat.  This is one of those only in New York experiences that I cherish.

We (I should say Nathan) dragged the file cabinets into my apartment, then went to eat - at first to Indian Road Cafe, which is the local coffee house/organic restaurant of choice, which was too full, so we diverted back to Broadway and decided to check out the $3.95 chicken lunch special at a Dominican cafe called La Ceniza.  Well, let me tell you, we got amazing food, a lot of it, and kick-ass cafe con leche, all for a whopping total of $12 for us both.  We sat there for ages while some older regulars watched soccer (aka to the rest of the world outside US: football) on television.  We were welcomed as if we were long lost friends and asked to return.  This place's opening hours are 3am-6pm, so we decided it's for the transit workers - we are at the end of the A train and a bus depot - and the folks who have to get to places really early in the morning (aka the cleaners).  So, if you're looking for the best deal in Inwood, I think we found it.

We had a long, winding conversation - the kind that you have every day of the week if you are in college or your early 20s and work in a bookstore, but that feel luscious and extravagant when you are in your late 40s and 'have busy lives'.  While we have known each other for years, it is only now I am back in NYC that we are reconnecting and it's a real bonus, among many, in my life today.  There is also something unbelievably comforting in talking with someone you have known since you were 19 or 20, the shared history, generational, political, artistic, spiritual aspirations, questions, concerns, delights...nice.

After that, talked with another friend on the phone, sharing some issues that were plaguing us both, helping each other as best we could through the darker patches of our lives, shining the kind of light only a compassionate other can shine.  We all have blind spots, no matter how supposedly self-aware, so these friends of mine who tread a similar path are a treasure.

Another friend was coming over for our new Sunday ritual, i.e. Dinner and Downton.  Was about to start that cooking for that when my lovely, amazing, talented, wonderful friend from London, Bib, called on Skype and we talked about the opening of her gallery show, which sounded like it went beautifully.  In case you are in London, the name of the show is Noisy with Appeals to Silence at 31 Shorts Gardens, Covent Garden and runs through February 8.  Bib worked with me as part of Apocryphal Theatre and her visual work has been deeply affected by her time with us creating living sculptures as part of and for our improvisational theatrical creations.  In turn her work deeply affected the way I viewed and view theater.  She is exhibiting alongside Agniezska Stone whose work is also bold and stunning.  Go if you are in London, you will not be disappointed.  These two artists are both breaths of fresh air.

Talking with Bib was lovely, about her opening and our lives here and there.  I was telling her that she and all her European friends could probably never comprehend the depths of stupidity in the electoral process here or else their relatively rational/socially-minded brains would explode.  As anyone reading this blog knows because of my periodic outbursts, coming back here has given me a new appreciation for the brazen idiocy we are privileged to endure.  (Enduring Freedom, remember?  The name of our first attack on Afghanistan...sigh...)

Katie arrived soon after for dinner, I made risotto with kale, prosciutto and olives, which I don't mind saying came out pretty damn well, especially considering I have zero counter space.  It's amazing how much you can chop on a 9" x 6" cutting board on the side of a sink.  I'm an expert!  We had our usual fun time together chatting and wondering about the fate of fictional aristocrats and their servants during WWI...if anyone had told me I would consider that fun even 10 years ago I would have told them they were insane, btw...

No files have yet made it out of a box and into file cabinets, but I did place them in a good spot.  I did final prep for teaching my first acting class at Hunter tomorrow and for my BCC classes that start on Tuesday.

There are numerous things I feel I 'should' be doing/have done, etc.  But needed deeply this connecting with friends after a night of feeling excruciatingly alone, which was of course waves of childhood/adolescent pain/numbness washing over me in yet more "healing" balm...

Final rant: healing sounds so nice.  Healing actually hurts like hell.  This is as true of physical healing as it is of emotional healing.  It just sucks.  But it is necessary.  I hate that shit.  But, like, big deal.  Doesn't change a damn thing.

One of my best friends Julie reminds me of this a lot, for which I am extremely grateful.  Otherwise, I would think I was losing my mind or was going to always feel like the Swamp Thing.  But no, just part of the process...the infernal Process...which leads to..um..feeling basically OK enough to not want to jump out of my skin in some explosion of self-destructive activity...woohoo.  But yeah, even for that, I'm grateful.  Sad, isn't it?

Now, soon, earlier than I've managed...a little yoga and then bed, please dear Jesus, to sleep....

Sunday, January 29, 2012

38 years ago today...1974...not the best day ever.

So like these days - Jan 27-29 mark the time 38 years ago that I was being held alone in a basement apartment, the door of which was barricaded shut with furniture, which was tied by thick rope by a babysitter who was in her 40s and had gone stark raving mad.  Over a period of months she had convinced herself and some wayward teenagers she had kind of adopted by letting them drink at her place and call her Polly that I was evil.  I only realized later researching that time period (1974) that the Exorcist had come out around that time and Polly while having a Jewish last name (Levine) considered herself a Catholic (rosaries and the whole bit).  Over the time I was living with her, because while we were living in Connecticut, my mother was working in NYC and my step-father at the time presumably was not up to taking care of a 10 year old on his own, she - Polly - went loopier and loopier as she drank herself into an alcohol and prescription drug induced psychosis.  However, as mentioned prior, until she went completely over the top she had allies.

I have attempted to write this story more times than I can count.  I don't think I will be writing it all here tonight, because it involves a period of months and the weirdest/canniest series of cult-inducing psychotic moves on Polly's part as can be imagined, up to and including telling me she should adopt me because when "they" found out that my parents did drugs (as far as I know at the time they were smoking pot and maybe acid), I would become a ward of the state (for anyone outside US, this means given to social services or put into care).

The outline however is this: my response, until she kept me awake for 48 hours and barricaded the door because everyone had supposedly turned against her, while walking around "finding" knives that I was supposedly planting in places to kill her (one of which she planted days or weeks before in a coat of mine and "found" before I went to school one morning), was to go to school and get straight A's.  This prompted the most absurd response of all when it all came out what happened, my teachers and parents asking me why I didn't tell them what was going on.  As if.  This response led me to years and years of believing it was my fault I had been in that situation and had I been 'strong' enough I would have run away or told someone.  Trust me, for future reference if you're ever dealing with a severely abused child: it don't work that way.  Abuse = silence.  The more severe the abuse = the more deafening the silence.  That's the way it works.  I even managed to work my way into a relationship like that as an adult, but that's another story....

The "everyone" who had turned against Polly were the teenagers, one of whom was my step-father at the time's sister, Barb, who realized she had lost it and had escaped, leaving me alone to fend for myself - Barb at least went to find my step-father to get him to come back and get me out of there.  Another one was her own son, Craig, who lived with his father.  This fact alone, that in 1974, a mother had lost custody of her own son should have alerted everyone to the fact Polly was bonkers.  Apparently the babysitting agency missed the fact she had been locked up in a mental hospital in the past.  But Craig was not a secret, so it kind of shows how out of it everyone was at the time to have not clued into this obvious weirdness.

Everyone, including - weirdly enough Polly Levine herself at the time it was happening - has told me I should write this as a (a) book, (b) screenplay, (c) play...etc.  I have tried my friends, believe me, I have tried.  The material however is so fucked up it is hard to walk through it with anything resembling sanity.  I have written about it over and over but never in a format I feel does it justice.  The attempts include: writing down each and every memory (done), doing research on all that happened that last weekend (done), attempting to see it from Polly's point of view (done), only from my POV (done), cutting up the memories and making it into a stage text (done), from others' POV...etc.  The weirdest memory of all though is Mrs. Levine (which is how I knew her and referred to her - which is why it's odd and interesting to me for the first time ever writing tonight I am writing Polly - which is in fact what she wanted me to call her but I would not - I had a few odd little rebellions like that, which may be why I didn't flip - my therapist for over 7 years in London marvelled that I did not completely split when this happened - I guess that's the 'normal' response) - when she said one day while she was frying something - one day you'll write about us you know, it'll be called Polly and I.  This memory is pristine, even has a kind of yellow light, the smell of the frying - though I can't remember what she was frying but I think it may have been onions.  Maybe she said Polly and Me.

She did read my attempts at journals at the time and amended them, even wrote entries for me.

She may be the reason I am a writer today.  Which is just weird.  But also possibly true.

I have a journal from the days after I was rescued - my stepfather at the time, David, did manage to talk his way into the house, in large part due to the fact that Polly had a crush on him.  She took a huge knife out of the drawer, handed it to me and asked me to cut the rope around the furniture.  I said I could not.  She looked at me pityingly - in her little negligee stoned and drunk out of her mind on alcohol and pills - and said "Yes, I know you have a problem with knives" then violently cut the ropes herself and moved the furniture out of the way, while I stood there in my nightgown frozen to the spot.

When David came in, he started packing my things, not all of them - and Polly kept asking me to stay, to tell him I didn't want to go, that they were drug addicts and horrible people.  David turned to her and said shut. up.  I just cried and cried, feeling guilty I couldn't say anything myself.

This was dawn of Jan. 29.  It is now early hours of Jan. 29, 2012 as I write this.  This is also why I am a late night person.  She stayed up late, used to make me stay up with her, until 2 to 3 am or so to eat her 'famous' scrambled eggs (you can't make this shit up).  When I was supposed to be asleep, I stayed awake until she was asleep - we shared a room.  I knew it wasn't safe.  That much I knew.  I never slept when she was awake.

So, on these days when, as now, I am alone, I am awake, watchful, somewhat scared.  I would like this to end.  I would like the trauma she inflicted on me to be over.  For good.  I am hoping by writing about this, however sketchily (and believe me this is the merest outline) tonight, I can go some way towards unburdening myself of the shame, horror and trauma that that time with Polly Levine inflicted on me.

I also hope that someday sooner rather than later I will feel safe enough in myself to write out this whole story in a form that can be disseminated, that is not mere ranting.

I have discovered a photo of myself, which is taken in the cottage on Peaks Island, Maine, where I spent parts of summers for many years when David was my step-father.  It was my favorite place on earth.  The clothes and my age as far as I can tell seem to lead me to believe this is when I was 12-13.  I am lying on the bed on the sunporch that looked out over Casco Bay and the Atlantic Ocean with two kittens lying on either leg, I have a book in my hand and am smiling at whomever is taking the picture.  I look oddly triumphant and deeply pleased.  This is so at odds with my memory of how I felt during that time that it's striking.  So I wonder: is this soon after the Mrs. Levine debacle?  Or was this after I was taken back after my two years living with my grandparents after the Mrs. Levine debacle?  I don't know.  What I do know, and this is precious to me, at that moment in time, I am happy.

This proves that no matter how much shit you put a person through, that person can fucking survive.  As you all know who have been reading along with me, these past few months have been about finding ways out of Camp Grief.  This does not mean, I hasten to add once again, diminishing the feelings or returning to my good old workaholic dissociated self, but it does mean letting something grow now - to stop hoeing and hoeing, turning up more and more shit - the shit will come if it needs to, no problems there - but to let it settle, begin gently planting seeds and letting them grow.

I haven't a fucking clue, by the way, what that means in real life, what will or won't grow and some part of me as I type this is petitioning this happy clappy part of myself for a 10 point action plan to get the fuck out of process-hell.  At some point she too - She Who Plans - needs to be integrated too and not banished to Not Healthy Enough world or whatever.

But for now, tonight, gentle...gentle...and as I type that 10 point plan girl is saying: WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT????  And I can't really answer, except to say...maybe something about breath.  10 point plan girl responds with ???!!!!!  Etc.  You get the picture.  And remember 10 point plan girl is the one who got me into boarding school on scholarship to get the hell out of dodge and 10 point plan girl is the one who managed to get me through the eye of the needle of Mrs. Levine's psychosis so she didn't kill me.  She deserves respect even if she can go into overdrive and almost kill me with exhaustion at times.

When we went back to Mrs. Levine's to get my stuff a few days later, the apartment had crime scene tape on it (because the authorities of some type showed up after we left to find her stabbing with the butcher knife my favorite black fuzzy pillow repeatedly yelling the names of the teenagers to get out) and the black pillow case was on the floor with a pyramid of feathers piled on top of it.  Antiseptic and chilling.  They took here to some mental hospital in full restraints.  Why I was brought back there, I'm not sure.  Why I was told that story then I'm not sure.  But it led me to believe I had had a fairly close brush with violent death.

This is why whenever I hear stories of children killed violently, I shudder inside and sometimes cry.  I wonder sometimes if I even have some survivor guilt, even though, thank God she never killed anyone at least as far as I know.

I remember being in the car David picked me up in - I guess it would have been the Saab.  It was like a tiny capsule hurtling through space.  There were icicles and snow, the taste of cold in the air when I went padding out to the car in my nightgown or PJs.  A pink line of the sun rising.  I was cold, had been cold for days.  And I was warm there for that moment.  Staring at an uncertain dawn.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Some notes - a brief post to mark the day

Wasn't going to write today but just saw the movie Frida, which I thought was quite beautiful.  It's about the painter Frida Kahlo, her painting and her life with Diego Rivera.  The way Julie Taymor directed it at first made me skeptical but I ended up liking the way she made shots into moving paintings and such.  Frida's painting in particular after her miscarriage just slayed me.  

Seeing this made me think I should start painting again, but right now a stiff wind in any direction can make me think I should so anything again or for the first time, etc. so we'll see.

My writer's meeting tonight was phenomenal, full of people telling their human stories especially the struggles we all have with: what next, who am I, how to work, when to commit, when to let something go and sitting through the vast arctic tundra of one's self at times when the pain of certain things is this.  I now belief all people go through this, I think it's a stage - at least - of grief.  I am walking through one of those times now.

The movie about Frida Kahlo shows her doing this pretty much her whole life to one degree or another.  A hero for real, not a showboat.  Gorgeous without vanity, ruthlessness without cruelty, another female hero because so human.  Thank God/dess for that.  A line in the movie, the last line I believe, painted by her not sure, was something like: 'May the leaving be joyful and may I not return.'  That made me cry, too.  She died about my age now.  I understand her sentiment.

Unlike her I have never had a husband who has divorced me return to marry me again and don't expect to, but I was so happy for her that happened.  At least at the end of her life, the love she so richly deserved.

Some notes I have found myself writing on the street I will record here:

****
From today, written on 70th street between park & lex:

I don't know what to do but...another voice comes in saying: neither does anyone else and for a moment I feel calm.  It's all theory innuendo ideas some experience hunches and a few moments of brilliance.  Other than that means I'm on my own.  Scary but true. Luckily I have a few paths I trust but even those need interrogation.  God or whoever the fuck you are I need you now more than ever.

****

Note from Jan. 12 at 2:19pm (can't remember where I was but probably on street because it's on my phone):

Maybe timing is perfect.
Maybe I haven't finished things because they weren't ready not out of fear or laziness.
Maybe all is unfolding exactly as it should and all the self-flagellation is pointless.
Maybe I can let go and trust hp. Starting by taking care of myself.
Gentle.  Be gentle.

***

On that note, to bed...perchance to dream and all like that.  (Oh speaking of which Tucson has banned the teaching of The Tempest in their public school system, but no I can't go off on another rant...I just need to sleep.  But remember kids: Shakespeare's bad for you, that English subversive freak...he was probably Gay)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

America's American Americanness is So American!

Yes, you guessed it - primary debates and Obama's State of the Union address...glutton for punishment here, sick to death of hearing about How Great America Is and How We As Americans Together Can Do Anything because We Are the Greatest...etc., ad nauseam...so like I found this troubling before I ever left this Hallowed Land but after 8 years in UK, wow...it's insufferable.

I feel like I'm trapped in a land of of insufferable cheerleaders who every once in a while have stupid cat fights and call each other names but then 'rally round' to support their football players (i.e. military).  It is truly grotesque.

Yes Obama looks nice and talks rationally, which alone puts him light years beyond Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-demagogue, but then he has to basically make a pitch for unity in the government by getting all misty eyed about Navy Seals taking out Osama bin Laden in a blatant assassination.  Oh, yes, "they were straight and gay, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican" but by God they knew how to storm a house and kill an old, sick guy in a house, goddamnit.

It's just embarrassing.

Yeah, yeah, I know, I know.  I said I knew what I was getting into when I came back here, and to some degree I did but I forgot this feeling of suffocating under a pile of steaming bullshit that comes with paying attention to US politics and how fucking nationalistic and just plain ignorant and/or megalomaniacal we are.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney's tax returns have come out and he made something like $25million dollars last year and paid a whopping 15% in taxes.  I think that basically means he makes in a minute or maybe in a second what I make in a year and he pays half the tax.  Obama brings up taxing folks like him more and the Republicans after the speech cry Class Warfare!

Well, yeah, sure, but who fucking started the war???

I mean it.  Romney gave more money to the Mormon Church than he had to pay in taxes.  Is there any planet on which that makes sense?  Anyone?  Please feel free to comment if you can answer this.

Meanwhile, I still have no health insurance, because I can't afford it and am back to living in fear of getting sick.  But of course any attempt to rectify that system is Socialism (gasp) and Impinges on Our Freedom.

Oh, and to Obama for saying higher education has to lower costs to keep tuition down (with no offer to subsidize that btw), please with all due respect bite me.  There are thousands of us who work as adjuncts, as higher education attempts to rein in costs - which means I have a PhD and my actual hourly salary = McDonald's cashier money with no health benefits.  If CUNY has to tighten its budget anymore, what else will go?  Oh, I forgot, we have to bring our own chalk into the classrooms (where I teach there is No technology in the classroom) because there is usually none already there.  So, what next, no chairs?  If you want to reward teachers as you said, this is not the way.  Meanwhile private universities have tiny class sizes, etc. and wealthy endowments because of wealthy alums, etc.  I went to one of those places, they are great...but the inequity of this system is glaring.

Meanwhile and on the distinctly Other hand, I've gotten wonderful feedback from the play reading and feel completely in sync with my patch of the artistic-political community.

Herein lies the complete and utter paradox of me in the US (even in NYC - which is - sadly - in the US), on the one hand I want to scream most of the time and on the other hand, many people understand me.  When I scream here I have no doubt I have the right to scream and at whom to scream.  When in the UK, I felt weird, uncomfortable, disgruntled but ultimately muzzled by the mere fact of being American.  That role "the American" makes it impossible to comment on politics in any other country without feeling like a total ass.

Because like on what planet do I have the right to say anything about anything anywhere else when my own country has violated every known human rights code both at home and abroad, has millions of children starving and sick in its own country (not to mention adults) and then puts on a show with millionaires wandering around saying "we're the best!"

Then I go back to earlier today walking along the tidal salt-marsh in Inwood and feeling completely at home and in love with this city, followed by the moment of walking into Penn Station on the stairs I remember ascending age 14 or 15 visiting my friend Amy for the first time, having taken the train from Providence.  Walking by myself up the stairs onto the street of NYC, thrilled to be here and on my own adventure.  As humble and kind of even ugly as Penn Station is, that smell, the bustle and the old-fashioned train schedule board never fail to give me a little thrill.

I remember during that same trip getting on the subway and seeing all the pale, sickly looking faces of New Yorkers (this was in 1978) and thinking: really, really?  These are the beautiful people?!

Then walking everywhere with Amy who ushered me from place to place walking endless lengths of sidewalk looking up at towering building after building falling into bed exhausted after seeing apartments and friends who had families with overly precocious children in large West End apartments and understanding oh, oh, oh that's what Salinger is on about...feeling intimidated, knowing I was way poorer, the eternal scholarship child, looking at signs outside of Lincoln Center dreaming of one day being on them (knowing now because of my unfortunate experimental turn - unfortunate in terms of either fame or fortune - that that dream was wildly misguided but who knew then I was a mini-Republican at the time...seriously, I was) and wondering how I got to be part of this madness, which at the time was considered madness, but I loved it.

Then working here one year 1982-83 at an Off-Off Broadway theater, I think I wrote about this in an earlier blog post last summer, working my ass off all day then getting drunk at night, bouncing off walls  of buildings at 4am - somehow nothing happening to me, this crazy city somehow protecting me - seeing Keith Haring drawings, which were mysterious then not Keith Haring drawings, just something where billboards in the subway were supposed to be but weren't because economy was in the dumps - also this other thing protecting me, a preternatural instinct I trusted without doubt - and I kind of envy this certainty of my 19 year old self - if I felt danger, I did not go into the subway, I took a cab or another street.  I don't have a clue where that came from, but I had it.

I've talked to a number of other survivors of certain kinds of childhood abuse, especially sexual, and they too have this experience - that in adult life we are less likely to be attacked because we can smell danger like certain animals can smell fear and in my experience in life, in NYC or anywhere else, if a man has attempted to molest me in any way some kind of feral strength emerges and I push that person violently away, and that's the end of that.

Maybe that's why I don't feel so much danger here.

But at times, these days, all that being said, I have felt lonely at times, viscerally lonely.  My cat is great company and when I get out of the house and see friends or go to meetings, that's great but there is an underlying sense of loneliness/depression that I cannot shake and fear writing about, because I find the words: lonely and depressed somehow shameful.

I am grateful for so much, the gift of the teaching work (even if insanely underpaid), my place, my friends, my work so feel churlish saying I feel lonely and depressed, but I do.  Not all the time, but sometimes.

Today, after the walk I did feel better because the sense came back to me - the one that redeems me over and over again these days, which is "I'm here" - "I" in this case meaning something like a weird pastiche of my Inner Adult and some sense of a higher power (verbiage hopelessly inadequate and vague sounding - so sorry for that) and a deeper knowledge that I am OK.

Also the realization: I am tired.  So, so, so, so very tired.  If I had the means, I would take a month off and go somewhere to sleep.  I don't, though, so instead this underlying exhaustion remains.  I could perhaps get away with a month off but the fear of economic insecurity that would follow that month makes this seem impossible, plus I would feel guilty for not writing.

I feel I should have accomplished enough by now that I would have taken care of myself well enough financially so I wouldn't be this age, this tired and still living off the same amount of money I did at say 22 and with the same total lack of stability.  I am not there because the paths that led to that kind of security felt/feel like death to me or for whatever reason remain inaccessible.  I know there are those out there in this lovely country that would pathologize this state of affairs and tell me I don't have the courage to be rich or some shit, but please believe me when I tell you: spare me.

I did find myself - when confronted again today with all the many things I need to do to 'get somewhere' crying and saying out loud to no one in my apartment "I am so tired of capitalism."  I just don't function well in this economic model.  I never have.  I don't 'brand' myself, etc.  I don't have any interest in that shit, which makes me basically a laughing stock as a so-called artist.

OK, so bring out the violins and all that, I know, I know...in the end these are luxury problems, because I am alive, I am healthy, there is food in my refrigerator, heat in my apartment, clothes on my back, a series of jobs and work that does not kill my soul.  That alone puts me somewhere high up in the wealth category in relation to the world population.  Plus, I'm alive, sober and awake to my whole life - for good or ill.

Which, back to America the American Americanness, is why the politics of the day is so insufferable to me.  I cannot turn it off and having lived outside Camp We're So Great seems not only inane but just, well, wrong.  Seriously, people, if you are reading this and don't understand what I mean, please attempt to get out of the country for a while, even if just to like Canada...

I think I have now been writing for a long while, so need to stop so I can reread this, edit and publish.  Hopefully tonight I can get a full night's sleep, and I wish the same for you.  Blessings.

Monday, January 23, 2012

"Imagination is more important than knowledge"

After a few days wherein I was preparing for and then watching my play get read at Brecht Forum, I had a lovely day off today, in which I did very little, except talk to some friends on the phone, then go to a meeting nearby then come back home and watch a little football, then Downton Abbey (which the New Yorker reviewer also accused of being nostalgic about old class divides but admitted was also riveting - both true - I think she basically concluded it was a guilty pleasure that's wrapped up to look like something good for you - kind of like candy that looks like seaweed wrapped around sushi, but is in fact chocolate mouse coated with sugar.  I would agree)...

What followed however was as wonderful as it was unexpected.  A show on NPR called "On Being" about Detroit's unlikely renaissance (which is not economically driven but instead human-driven - e.g., older African American women who emigrated from the South who call themselves the Gardening Angels urban gardening on abandoned lots, other folks rebuilding with the help of wounded vets and all manner of self-sustaining urban-green-organic type stuff...the focus of the show was a woman named Grace Lee Boggs, a 96 year old Chinese-American philosopher, daughter of immigrants, born in Providence, RI (where I was born, I'm proud to say!), who got her PhD in 1940 and went on to become a radical political figure along with her husband in Detroit.  She became a big part of the African American struggle, which dovetailed into both feminism and socialism.

She spoke about Hegel and about negativity being the prerequisite for the positive, and how people have been finding ways to live in Detroit ever since the rebellion (her term) in the 1960s wherein many buildings were burnt down and led to white flight from the city.  The report, Krista Tippett, said she was "surrounded by radiant people" who see her as an elder.  Boggs was born in 1915, a year before both my grandmothers, one of whom was an activist feminist, so I pricked up my ears to listen closely to her.

After this radio show, I was inspired to go back to the Dick & Jani project, which may become a stage text...still not sure on that...and decided to write in a plausible but fictional account of Jani meeting this amazing Grace Lee Boggs.  After having fun with that, I then went back to Dick (aka Betty) at the same time (1976) commenting on the Carol Burnett show and her ceaseless criticizing or complaining about all things great and small.  This was deeply painful to write, as I lived with her for 2 years of this in the 1970s and was the focus of a lot of her deep frustration.  However, I forced myself to continue writing through this pain, because this is what I hear everyone who writes memoirs or stuff about their family in semi-fictional contexts say: it's fucking painful.  I don't know why/how/if I thought I got to jump over that bit, but I know from listening to Karr & Carr that that is impossible.  I set myself a time to stop though, because I knew if I kept going, it would be just too much and I wouldn't get back to it.  I also had to write through the ceaseless voice in my head saying "Who cares?  Who the fuck cares?  No one will want to read this!  It's just depressing..." etc.  Which when you think about the subject stands to reason, don't it?

The moral of the story is this: if I rest and do what I need to do for myself, I suddenly find myself with time and energy to burn, which translates into writing.  Good to know.

The last few days, which included the two readings, also included some emotional upheavals, most of which were not directly related to the play - except inasmuch as the night after the first reading I was overcome by how lonely I felt, as I didn't have anyone to share the experience with when I got home.  The first reading night was scary because, as per usual, we didn't have enough time, and I had also handed it over to a director and so had no control over what happened, like at all.  Also, there was someone there from a pretty big deal theater, which added to the Fear.  It went pretty well considering, but the Important Theater Person left before I could speak with her and I don't know what she thought...

We got some really good feedback that night (both positive and critical - but in a constructive way), and I was happy about all that, but was having my usual delayed-fear response on the way back home - like one of those cartoon/comedy routines where someone does something 'brave' and then is shaking after the confrontation is over...again, none of this is outside of my experience as a writer and/or director in the theater, but coming home alone, knowing the next day was B's birthday and I wouldn't be calling him because we're separated now, especially we had had shared our work with each other for 10 years, so the one person I would be talking to - either in person or on skype or whatever was not there, was quite hard.  So, I watched dumb movies that made me cry...

The next day I went to a meeting and found myself crying for a long time on a friend's shoulder.  She also came to the reading the second night, so I dubbed her my guardian angel for the day.  It felt good to finally cry with someone after all my solo crying jags - to finally have my pain witnessed here in NYC.  It was witnessed in London, but here it hasn't been as acute and I haven't known where to allow it out that felt safe.  It's good to know that is gradually changing.

At that meeting someone said something very important, too, which is quite profound even though simple.  She said "I discovered that it's important when you say no, to know what you're saying yes to" - in other words, when you say no, you open up a space where something else can live - whether it's time, energy, money, creativity, whatever.  A no is not just a negative, it leads to a positive.

The Saturday reading, even though some audience was deterred by (gorgeous) snowstorm, was full of lovely folks, including, much to my surprise iconic 60s-activist writer Barbara Garson (most well-known play: MacBird!), who was generous in her response.  I look forward to meeting with her soon as I am sure I have much to learn from her.

We had a very interesting after-show discussion on Saturday including a fellow from Occupy Wall Street's banking committee, who had worked on Wall Street.  (Apparently in a few weeks they will be publishing a concept for a different kind of bank that "benefits the 99% rather than the 1%).  He spoke quite eloquently of attempting to get out of the winner-loser dialectic and how to work with a more cooperative model.  This shed some very interesting light on the play and the discussion.

The actors did an incredible job with only a few hours of rehearsal - making a staged reading seem like a very alive piece of theater.  The actors were Marietta Hedges, Matt Higgins, Terry Runnell, Kevin Scott and Alyssa Simon.  Kevin and Rik Walter (director) also managed to pull off a lot of technical stuff, which was way above and beyond the call of staged-reading duty.

As a writer, there is very little more moving than watching people work with passion and precision on words you have written.  By the end of Saturday, when Matt (who was playing the role of "James" - the one who does not want to go "off script"), allowed for the full scale meltdown that is implied by the text, it was extraordinary.  It made me want to cry, and I wrote the damn thing.  In these moments, I know why I work in theater, because there is nothing like it.  There is no moment watching a movie or reading or seeing a painting or even hearing/watching music when you can watch a human being connect with something in himself that connects with everyone in the room in a way that is that palpable and transformative.  Those moments shift the air, allow spaces for some kind of rearrangement of molecules...and well a connection...There is an Allen Ginsberg quote I read on (of all things) Twitter the other day and retweeted (the 21st century version of praise) that somehow touches this - though he's talking about his desire in his writing: 'to recreate the syntax and measure of poor human prose and stand before you speechless and intelligent and shaking with shame'


something like that - except it's not prose but instead the soul of the person him or herself...

When I came back last night, therefore, I did not feel alone.  Because there was that deeper connection - in the theater, in the meeting, at the diner afterwards with Marietta who made this all happen...

Can these moments change the world?  Can anything?  I don't know.  I do love the sense of possibility though.  Grace Lee Boggs raised the twin issues of necessity and possibility, saying that in the past political activists were only concerned with necessity, but now the idea of possibility is more important.  She was saying "this is more subtle, more interesting...and allows for more imagination."  She mentioned that Einstein felt that imagination was more important than knowledge.

So: let us get drunk on water (as Deleuze and Guattari suggest quoting Henry Miller) by beginning with a toast to possibility and imagination.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What a great day at Housing Works Bookstore & Brecht Forum

This evening I had the deep privilege of sitting in front of one of my literary heros, Mary Karr (apologies to you who have been reading this blog and having to hear me babble on and on about her over and over again, but I've read all 3 of her books in about a month, so I can't help it), and hearing her and some other folks, including a Twitter hero (is that possible, I guess so) David Carr (@carr2n)  talk about their experiences with addiction, recovery and writing.

One of the authors on the panel drove me almost to distraction. I will leave out her name, but her one comment that almost drew some fire from fellow panelists, but didn't because they all have way too much time in recovery.  I watched them as a group inhale, breathe out and decide not to say anything - kind of a collective response.  If you've spent times in rooms where this is necessary due to the structure that allows people to speak without interruption, you will understand what I mean.  She said, basically, that the last 200+ inventions of any use in recent history were "all made by us" (that would be Americans) and that "capitalism and art are a great combination!" (exclamation point hers)  At moments like that, I think: (a) you need to get out more - like out of This Country and (b) no wonder everyone else hates us (Americans)!  Oh and just for the final idiocy, we were there in Housing Works Cafe, which is there to help people with HIV/AIDS who are/were homeless.  She also said - and this didn't surprise me one bit - that "I don't go to meetings anymore" in a tone which implied she didn't need them - hmmm),  But OK, she - happily - was the aberration.

Everyone else was great.

I already expected Mary Karr to be great, and happily she did not disappoint.  She is as beautiful, funny and direct as her writing would lead you to expect.  She is engaged to be married at age 57 (big shiny diamond - I'm not making this up), which means at 48 I'm not dead yet - always good to know.  When I handed her the printed out version of an email I had sent her, she was entirely gracious and lovely about it.

More importantly, ehat I learned from her in the panel discussion is yes it's possible to talk about all this stuff honestly without breaking principles of anonymity, yes it's safer to be out there in the world with your story told than keeping secrets and yes (all agreed on this) it's not about 'self-expression' but about telling a story of transformation - not about how horrible someone else was or what happened but how the individual (memoirist or in a novel) overcomes something about her or himself.  This is so basic, I don't think I ever considered it, which is embarrassing: the blindingly obvious being quite literally blinding  So, I'm glad I could hear that.

Listening to David Carr (a reporter for the New York Times) talking about his memoir, I was astonished at what he went through to do it - asking everyone he knew to basically tell him all the asshole things he did when he was drinking and drugging - treating his own (self described as horrendous) behaviour like a news story and reporting it.  The best (most incredible unreliable narrator) story was how he remembered a situation where he had somehow assaulted a friend of his - maybe by accident with a car, I can't remember that part (and I just heard this story an hour ago...so there you go...) and he went to his place and his friend asked him to leave, waving a gun, saying he was too scared of him now.  The friend told Carr, yeah that all happened: except you had the gun.  Carr was astonished, as he thought he hated guns.  Then yet another friend confirmed that he had a Smith & Wesson in his house when he'd helped move him at one point and wondered about why he had a gun. Carr then wrote all this in his memoir entitled, for now obvious reasons The Night of the Gun.  Talk about guts.  Damn.  And he struck me as the most singularly humble person I remember having ever encountered.  I know that sounds extreme, but I've honestly never seen it - not in someone who is speaking in public and could be talking about how great it is he has been redeemed or whatever.

His humility made me fall back in love with Mary Karr when she said in response to Carr's off-hand remark that when Bill O'Reilly doesn't like what he says, he'll accuse him of being a crack addict, but that at least that's actually true....and anyway, that's the most interesting part of my life..."Oh bullshit David, that's the least interesting part of you."  She meant this in a loving way, and it was gorgeous to see.

I didn't drool in front of anyone, and for that alone I am grateful.  I felt I deserved my seat and that I could talk to these folks without fear, which is a new experience.  I also rediscovered another obvious thing: I find it easier to talk with people who are clean and sober than drunk and stoned.  Shock.

Before that Rik, the director of the reading of We live in financial times, and I had fun working out all the technical stuff for the staged reading this weekend at Brecht Forum.   The Occupy Wall Street folks were having their general assembly in the space at 7pm, so we're obviously in the right place.  If you haven't been to Brecht Forum, I do recommend checking it out.  There seems to be all kinds of good stuff happening there, that is if you like your art and politics radical.

Having said that, let me assure you if you are coming to see the play, it is not agit prop didactic. I believe it's more complex than that - and with any luck will inspire a real conversation between bankers and OWS (who will be part of talk-back after the readings).  That is probably wildly optimistic, but is my desire.

It's incredibly cold today, but that kind of makes me feel better - like I'm in the right season.  I also love the coat I bought up in Maine, which is like wearing a big comforter (British: duvet).  There's nothing quite as satisfying is feeling how cold it is, but being warm.

Yesterday spent the Whole Day aside from a small break for a meeting and about 15 minutes of yoga, sending invites out for the upcoming readings.  So, like, if you're reading this and in NYC, please come along!  It's gonna be interesting...

OK, now time for yoga and chilling out time...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Scary Newt and the wit and wisdom o' Inwood

So, to start...here's the weird sign I saw on the street leaning against a lamppost on 207th Street walking from the 1 train.  Wisdom?  Google Translate? Inwood Confucianism? You decide:



I am really not sure what to make of this, is a bad lie one that works or does not work?  Is a fast cart something that gets you somewhere or refer to the people who sell things off carts on the street?  In any case, I could not help but stoop down and get a blurry photo with my half-smart phone.


After the relative calm of seeing this and spending time with friends today, one at a local cafe, from where you can see the below body of tidal water...(I can't help myself taking photos of it, especially as the seasons change...something so gorgeous about this area in January - stark but lovely...again, sorry for the phone photo but gives you an idea...one of the many things on my to do list is to get a better camera for these photos and video work I'm starting to do...)





But so...after this calm, I managed to shatter it by watching the Republicans debate in South Carolina.  I haven't managed to sit my sorry ass down and watch one of these things all the way through until now.  Whatever hope I've had about Occupy Wall Street was severely threatened by the whoopin' and hollerin' for Newt Gingrich speaking in blatantly racist terms about the economy to the African American reporter asking him a question...then watching the African American female anchor on FoxNews Live Stream pretend she had not written the word 'condescending' to refer to Gingrich by half giggling saying "I don't why I wrote that" followed by Ed - I'm such a racist and wish I was Dick Cheney - Rollins snorting "Oh you meant the reporters!"  She laughed a little too loudly - all the years she must have taken of god knows what abuse to have her anchor position at Fox news live stream flashing before her eyes - uh yes, that must be it, she said.  Bull shit.

I swear to God I was waiting for the pan out to that audience to suddenly include white pointy hats.  But no, they've got 'em stored away in the basement or attic somewhere...you could just see the Aura of it - all that pent up resentment at having to have an African-American president bursting out the sides, a barely contained riot of approval for the fake-academic Gingrich tut tutting all those people on food stamps.  I thought I was gonna hurl.  So instead I started tweeting madly - the modern version of pathetic protest.  I did have a good tweetversation (is that a word yet?) with a fellow in Memphis about all this - someone else who had moved back from Europe and is still reeling with the raw horror of these very scary men - and their even scarier supporters (mobs).

If you think I am exaggerating, by the way, just go to the Fox News channel website and I'm sure you can watch the whole thing again - if you can bear it, and I warn you: it's ugly.

The only tiny consolation I have is that Romney will most likely be their nominee and attacking his idiotic record will be like shooting fish in a barrel, and he does not have the horrifying populist demagogic power of Gingrich or the weird Cameron-like smoothness of Santorum or the righteous Texan religious thing of Perry or the racist anti-semitic dressed up as radical thing of Ron Paul.  Who are all these people?

I say that and yet I know....I grew up among them, I was an Evangelical Baptist at one point when a teen.  The world is so black and white.  White is Jesus and the Church, black is both racial and the Godless Government, etc., etc.  The belief system is incredibly insular and totalizing, which in these days of anxiety and economic meltdown ironically is more comforting to these folks than oh say an actual social safety net.  Nietzsche was right about this: Christianity does valorize suffering as the entry fee, which can cause a weird idea of what the social should be.  We reap what we sow.  He also said, and I agree with him on this one: Christ was the only Christian.  Amen that brother Friedrich.  Yeah, yeah I know he hated women - hold the comments.  Still he got some stuff right.  And it was his sister that was the anti-Semite, not him...he hated everyone.  Kind of like Lenny Bruce except he was a 19th century philosopher.

In summary, for today: friends: good.  Republican presidential candidates: bad.  So, there you go, I am now oversimplifying with the rest of 'em.  Reminds me it's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and I should be better than that.  He is right that you can only get rid of darkness with light and hate with love, but tonight I cannot find any love for Newt Gingrich.  No, actually, weirdly that's not true.  On some deeper level I can, even for him, which is kind of fucked up, but I can...but on the level of presidential politics and the real world, no, never.  He is my enemy in that world.  Yes, I would like to have a dialogue and yes I'm aware we are all too polarized, but a dialogue can only be had in good faith and  stirring up white resentment and fear under the guise of rational policy is horrendous.  It needs to be called out for what it is not lauded like the idiot commentators on Fox News were doing oohing and aahing over his 'passion' and how excited people in the audience were.

Dear God/Higher Power/Whomever, please help us all...It looks like we aren't doing a bang up job ourselves right now.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A lovely Sunday of small victories

A simple but close to perfect day - not for any whacky strange reason, just the simplicity and the agape love involved.

Before the activities of the day started, I found myself looking in the mirror after meditation and was surprised to see a relatively sane, composed person looking back.  It was kind of surprising.  I had the oddest, and nicest feeling after that, which was 'yes, I can' - not Obama-epic, but simple and sure.  The feelings I get plagued with at times of fears of incompetence or being overwhelmed by emotions or daily tasks or tax forms or doing the dishes again seemed to vanish.  The inner adult getting stronger - just a bit - each day.  What a relief and surprise.  Maybe I'm not the spazzy half-child I still have in my mind's eye when thinking of myself (back to Interpersonal Communications: that is Obsolete Information).  Maybe I'm actually a relatively competent adult who is beginning to take care of herself like for real.  (For some reason, tragically, whenever I've come out of long term relationships, I have to re-find this part of myself, because I seem to allow the other person to take over certain realms of competence - whether real or imagined - and/or assume I cannot sort out my own emotional equilibrium.  The feminists back in the day called this learned helplessness and was supposed to refer to 'helpless' housewives. Imagine my chagrin that I too can be afflicted by such a thing.  Yeah, again, I can recite chapter and verse about why this might be due to this person's abandonment and that other person's abuse when I was a child and blah blah, but now in my 40s: really? really?

Because I'm not utterly exhausted thanks to not pushing myself like a lunatic this past week, I was able to start the day by getting an application to Macdowell Colony writer's colony off without too much trouble - discussed how I'm beginning to see the Dick & Jani project as a stage text, hearing voices in the fragments and maybe that's where it wants to go.  It would be a wondrous minor miracle to get in and have the time to write without interruption for 6 weeks.  The reason I'm particularly pleased I applied is because I was rejected last year, but in a nice vaguely encouraging way (this is the life of the writer - as any writer knows - you look for the tone of rejection and find glimmers of hope there - sad but true).  Usually when I'm rejected for something, I just throw up my hands and walk away, finding some snarky reason to hate said institution or whatever.  This time I did not do that.  I applied again.  I have done this in a few other instances, but it's rare and felt wildly adult.  The outcome isn't up to me, but you'll be the first to know if I get it, that is if I don't faint and fall unconscious with the shock of it.

I got that done before the sun went down - just - and went to finally pick up a coat I had repaired and keep forgetting to pick up, but of course the place was closed as it is Sunday and a holiday weekend - yet another thing, as if there weren't enough - to be grateful to Martin Luther King, Jr.  Not the fact the dry cleaner was closed, the holiday.

I did go to the grocery store, and smelling all the fresh vegetable and herbs inspired me to make my famous lentil stew.  The basics of which I learned from my friend Marietta but have turned it into a signature (read: one of very few) meals I make.  I happily bought tons of fresh veggies, feeling righteous as I did so, filling my cart with healthy items all. The total at the counter was consequently smaller than usual - because it's always cheaper and healthier to make your own stuff - duh.

When I came into the apartment, there was a message from my new friend K.  I called her back and told her I was making stew and watching Downton Abbey and even though it was ass cold, would she like to come over and join me.  Much to my delighted surprise, she said yes.  I then spent hours cooking - and I don't mean that in a bad way.  It felt great.  No rush, cutting veggies, soaking lentils, even - dare I say it - putting on the football game because I knew the NY Giants were playing - and they won.  Big excitement here for that.  I really don't care, but it was fun to watch anyway.  I also vacuumed and played with Ugo who is having a chilled out day himself.

K came over and we chatted while half-watching the Golden Globe awards, then Downton Abbey.  That led to a discussion of the class system here and in UK.  Apparently, according to an article she read recently in the Economist, there is more mobility in the UK than in the US these days, which shows you how dire the US class system really is.  It doesn't have hundreds of years of history behind it but it does have the decimation of real democracy in favor of a capitalist kleptocracy to blame: all in the name of - wait for it - freedom.

Enduring freedom.  Remember that?  That was the name of the first misguided attempt to 'avenge the attacks of 9/11.'  As I said then and still applies: I don't know how much more freedom I can endure.

Then we talked health insurance, specifically, my lack thereof and alternatives, along with the usual invectives at the powers that be for the fact we don't have national health care, etc.  K is a doctor at a hospital and she was explaining that one clinic she knows of has a sliding scale for doctor visits, but not for lab tests and such, so they can sort of care for people but then, if the patient can't pay, they can't order tests patients might need but can't afford.  Nice, huh?  I did show her the NYU free and sliding scale health care resource site and she was impressed.  In case anyone out there might be in need of this, the URL is http://nycfreeclinic.med.nyu.edu/information-for-patients/health-resources/list-by-service.  Check it out.

I know this, along with my taxes, are two things I need to sort out soon, but I will.  Amazingly, I'm not even feeling freaked out about that.  It will happen.

After K left, I did the dishes and began writing here.  A lovely day all in all.  I even managed to clip two of Ugo's nails.  There are of course more than that, but it's a start and better than 0, which was historically the amount I've clipped.

So, for a day of small victories, incremental steps and making a ton of lentil stew for myself and an appreciative friend (who like me finds my apartment very cozy and warm ), even in a kitchen with no counter space, hooray.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Snapshots in the Subway & Stupid Love

As you can see from the time of this post, I am back on my late night train...of thought, action and just well, everything...

Have spent the past few days reading yet another brilliant book by Mary Karr Cherry, which details with excruciating brilliance and precision what it's like to go through junior high-school and high-school when you're smart, from an alcoholic family, rebellious by nature and its the 1970s in an oil refinery town in Texas.  Read it, just do it.  She's got the depth of Salinger without an ounce of privilege, except, as she admits, being white and knowing she was smart enough to get the fuck out.  Which, thank the gods, she did...She's my kinda writer - still in awe.

But what got me to the computer this late was a memory of what I wanted to write about but had forgotten - the walk tonight through the subway tunnel that links  the 123 train to the L train on 14th Street in which I heard the sound of the violin playing, an atonal violin concerto of some type - classical, difficult and looked up to see a very hip, young African American fellow playing.  I smiled up at him and he smiled back - don't know if I make this shit up or not, but it felt like the smile of mutual recognition - as in yes I hear what you are doing and yes I can see you do kinda thing.  So I'm thinking, ah yes, this is why I love NYC.  Then I get closer to the self-proclaimed (in handwriting that can only be done by the insane - precise, too large, somehow too deliberate and yet clumsy) NY Times Published Poet.  He's written this on frayed cardboard pieces in which he also writes that he will write poems for you.  He is asleep in the corner, I am fairly certain this is where he lives.  And I think - right and this is what I hate about NYC.  Not that this fellow is a self-proclaimed genius poet and clearly not sane in any way we could normally recognize, but because he lives in the subway tunnel.  That's the problem I've got with NYC/USA in general.  Call me old fashioned, but I'd rather see people with not enough money for crazy rents and no way to generate income housed.  Call me a Communist even, I don't fucking care.  The virtual (in comparison to NYC) absence of homeless people in London shows you too can have a ruthlessly capitalist city AND house people.  Shock.  Learn from it, people.

OK, but then I keep walking and get onto the subway platform where some folks I can't see are playing percussion, perhaps homemade instruments, not sure - but it's the rhythm, the rhythm of New York, the one you can always dance to whether someone's drumming or not, but that seems to cause a kind of rhythmic beat to emanate from underneath the electric, gas, cable, water, wires, tunnels, subway lines pulsing continuously so that sometimes it seems everyone's tapping, moving, whistling...sometimes crazy, sometimes angry, sometimes wildly generous, sometimes kissing passionately but always moving, moving, moving and then, just as suddenly still - profoundly still and silent.  For a moment - then the movement begins again.  This rhythm is profligate and can't be captured, and it doesn't seem to happen anywhere else, not anywhere I've been anyway - and in the past decade - I've been an awful lot of places.

And so even though I'm terrified about not having health care and sometimes think I've lost it having wilfully returned to Camp God (see in re Republican primaries), there are these moments, too.  So by the time I'm at a meeting talking to some folks who are welcoming me back home and they ask me: did you love living in London, I say the truth: no, no I did not love London.  I love New York.

God/dess and all Her Creation help me.  You are my only health insurance now.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Sweet relief

After a couple days of upending sadness and feeling like there was nothing I would like more than a stiff drink (which if you have been following this blog you would know is definitely not an option) or something even stronger (also not an option) or anything to just take me the fuck out of myself, and in which I instead sat with all these crappy-ass feelings, did stuff I needed to do and met with people like me who work on all this stuff for free by sitting around in relatively uncomfortable chairs drinking bad coffee, now I feel as light and good now as I did badly just a few hours ago.  It always strikes me as a minor miracle when this happens.  Any time I just sit with pain and grief, this is the gift.  I am particularly lucky because I have folks I can share this stuff with and I'm aware that is not true for everyone.  It's available to anyone, but lots of folks don't take advantage, which is too bad.

My new weird addiction is Yogi Tea...I have in my cupboard: Relaxing Mind (yes, seriously, I am that much a victim of advertising - however, I am drinking it now and it is damn fine), Bedtime, Pomegranate & Green Tea, Detox and Egyptian Licorice.  

*** interruption: I am listening to WNYC that reported yet another random shooting Somewhere in America - does it even matter where?  Dear God, I knew there was a lot more gun violence here, but I forgot how depressingly regular it is.  This is a very violent country in so many ways - guns being in some ways but a symptom...Not to mention the cops who kill people, oy...***

Now back to our regularly scheduled blog: tea.  I have other kinds as well, in other brands, including Chai (spiced tea), Rooibos (red teat), Earl Grey, Oolong from Xiamen, China...you name it.  I'm a tea freak.  If the UK did nothing else to my life, it made tea even more important.  And ya know what?  That's just fine.

Speaking of UK in the US, you cannot imagine (if you don't live here) how crazy people are for Downton Abbey.  I don't simply mean watching it, I mean talking about it, parsing it for this and that, discussing its structure, characters like they are relatives, loving it and hating it - wondering about the class system, hating it, loving it...loving the seeming stability, hating themselves for loving it, etc...and this is not me talking to myself, these are actual (and numerous) conversations I have had with people.  I think at least in the Northeast the cultural obsession between US and UK works both ways.

But back to my own writing, I turned in my contribution to The Delicate Cadaver last night at the deadline (see sidebar for details).  After enjoying writing the first draft the night before, when I was doing rewrites I suffered a mini-crisis of confidence, but then had to remind myself we all only had 48 hours and that this is something I've never done before.  Jeff who is coordinating it, assured me it looked vibrant and exciting (which was a relief, because I had lost all perspective by the time I had sent it to him).  I will be so intrigued to see what this project looks like when all the scenes are put together.  A friend reminded me that this is also probably freaking me out because I have So Little Control over the final manifestation - I usually direct and write, and have never given my writing over in this way - well, no, that's not true, I did for a project in Norway, working with another director-writer, but that had a very different feel to it and involved very complex negotiations involving taste and goals.  While there were certain rules in this instance, the ultimate decision about the writing was each writer's.  I think I'm so chill and into collaboration and then one of these things happens and I have to face my fears of loss of control, which are profound...and, to be fair, considering my past experiences, completely understandable.

Still, I'm kind of tired of it all - the control freak thing feels like it's way past its sell by date.  At the meeting I was at tonight, we were reading about the concept of being willing to allow a power greater than ourselves to remove our 'defects of character' - in other words ways in which we act that don't work well - for others and for ourselves (like oh say being a control freak).  The action involved here is simply being entirely ready to allow this to happen.  Which is careful wording - it's not being entirely ready to go in and route out all your own shit, it's about allowing Something/Someone else to do that in His/Her/Its own precious time.  Which most likely has little to do with your own idea of when this should happen.

Tricky for a control freak, very.  But necessary for all that, because that is the main issue...Ha.

And don't you know, it was after coming from that meeting and going to the Whole Foods and indulging in my tea hoarding addiction that I came back home and felt this sweet relief.  Sometimes the only thing left to do is turn it over, not cling on to whatever it is, including what I've read described as "arrogant self-criticism."  If I could have a neon sign over my head with an arrow pointing toward me to warn others, it would have flashy lights around it reading "arrogant self-critic."

Just heard Lenny Kravitz on New Sounds saying "my greatest strength is my greatest weakness"  and yes, yes, yes, that is true, too.  I've heard these so-called defects also called assets that have been somehow distorted, which is true...or they can also be assets when used properly.  Some level of self-criticism, if it's constructive is OK even admirable - when used to beat oneself over the head senseless, not so much.  If anyone tried to talk to me the way I talk to myself, I would take them out.  I would never dream of talking to anyone else that way.  So why, you may ask, is it OK for me to abuse myself so uninhibitedly?  Answer: it's not.

Kravitz also talking about his music doesn't fit into boxes, and how there is an obsession with putting things in boxes, and I couldn't agree more.  That is the same with my work, which is theater-art-poetry-writing-even sometimes video...which makes people either say definitely "that's Not theater or ask: What is It?  Or my favorite, what do you Call it?  Why can't it all be theater I wonder aloud over and over and over again...or if someone does similar work but wants to call it Art, why not?

Time now to enjoy the lightness of the evening and thank my friends and God/dess and all that is good in my life for being manifest...plus of course tea, and enough money to buy tea, not to mention copious amounts of heat in my apartment, a purring cat and the love of friends.  Speaking of which, Tamara, if you are reading this, your prediction I would soon find my 'light body' has come true much faster than I thought.  Bless you for your prayers, you and everyone else's too.  Back out at you.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Ravi Shankar to the rescue - again!

So what does a girl do when she's having a week that includes the anniversary of her father's death and the anniversary of when her soon to be ex-husband and she fell in love in NYC during 10 warm days in January 2002, when is now warm again 10 years later in the same city, but now she's alone?

She puts on Ravi Shankar chants is what.  Sometimes she does yoga, sometimes she writes a scene for a delightful project called The Dainty Cadaver (more on that later) and sometimes she just sends out invitations to her staged reading, sometimes she cries and sometimes she plays with her cat.

The other thing she does is take a long walk in the park and stares at the tidal marsh and finds friends who she can talk to about what's really going on.  And other times she just gets a manicure and pedicure and has a laugh.

I haven't written in a couple days because I've come to understand how deeply tired I am and how much rest I need.  This has been an utterly exhausting year, especially the past 6 months and even this blog has seemed like work.  Sometimes it's been a savior, but other times feels like a burden.

Yesterday was incredible, because I allowed myself to have a retreat day, doing nothing, as if I was on a real retreat...up until I got the Dainty Cadaver assignment at midnight, which plunged me into a couple hours of sheer delight writing.  This project was dreamed up by Jeff Lewonczyk, co-founder of Piper McKenzie with his lovely, talented wife Hope Cartelli, and will be shown at The Brick, a venue in Hipsterville aka Williamsburg (for the record I lived there before All That, but I won't bore you with my I remember when stories...).  As a variation of Exquisite Corpse, the Dadaist game invented at Cabaret Voltaire in which poets would add to each other's lines of poetry without seeing the lines before or just seeing one, Jeff has assembled 18 playwrights, 6 for each evening, with the assignment of writing a scene only knowing the scene before it, and with rules to take a few elements from the previous scene, but beyond that to go wherever we want to go.  I was delighted to be asked, then thought (before actually doing it), oh no, what if I can't think of anything and I don't write this way anyway...and then I got my intro scene and had a blast.

Ravi Shankar figures into this, too, but because there is a chance one of my fellow playwrights will read this and they aren't supposed to know anything about the scene before theirs, I will restrain myself from explaining how.  Except to say, I went from feeling really, really sad to laughing out loud...so I want to thank Jeff and whoever wrote the opening scene from the bottom of my heart for giving me excuse to go into comedy, cause goddamn did I need that.

If you're intrigued by this project, check out the Brick Theater website and make a reservation, because these shows will be packed out with friends of folks involved, etc.  There are 3 nights from Feb 3-5 and my night, which is Sunday afternoon, is February 5.  I think it should be really good fun.  I saw the other writers in my team, and if I do say so, I think it's pretty strong (as are all the teams truth be told, but I am already feeling Team Pride - Team C - Yeah...Ok that's sad isn't it?  You don't have to answer that..)

Tonight saw a piece of theater from Italy called Alexis, a take on Antigone via Greek anti-austerity demonstrations via Italian-speaking dancer-actors.  It was pretty good but I've seen so much Euro-theater these past 10 years, that part of me just kinda sighed and thought: yeah, that and now they do that bit, right there's the bit where they talk to us and oh, look, some video...etc.  Also I really can't abide theater that says "oh the theater isn't enough" in relation to politics and then just goes on and does theater.  I fear I've probably done that myself hence my total irritation.  It's annoying, so note to self and others: either Do Theater or Do Politics or Do Politically Informed Theater but don't have an identity crisis in the middle of it and expect me or anyone else to care.  Also, don't equate people coming up to the theater space with you to dance with political involvement.  Talk to the Syrians about political risk and engagement.

But, to be fair, many folks in the audience really loved it, so if you haven't spent 8 years in Europe watching theater and dance, you should probably go check it out.  It's at La Mama as part of the Under the Radar Festival.  My friend Johanna, who has very good taste and makes wonderful dance pieces, loved it as did her partner Aaron (who is in the much ballyhooed Gatz - which I'm incredibly excited to see in March!)...so really don't take my opinion very seriously.  For obvious reasons tonight I'm just not incredibly excited about Euro-world.  However, Aaron did say that his European programmer friends who saw it had the same response I did, which makes me feel a little less like a toad.

After that, Johanna and I had a gorgeous conversation that went from our deeply personal stuff all the way through to our work, as we had originally gotten together to remind each other of our various pedagogies.  I am teaching beginning acting at Hunter and she will be teaching dance for actors at her college in Illinois where she's pursuing an MFA, so we are developing our syllabi.  She was the choreographer on two shows of mine that were produced by The Present Company in 2003, and we had collaborated really successfully but had forgotten details of each other's techniques.  It was lovely sharing out work again and it reminded me of the strength of the work I've created with actors, dancers and artists over the years and she had the same experience vis-a-vis her work, so that was great.  I had a temporary freak out of the: 'why I haven't turned my PhD into a book yet or the chapter into an article for the training journal' variety, but re-remembered also when talked to Johanna that I am completely exhausted, because life has thrown me a number of extreme curveballs and all this stuff will get done when it's time.  In moments of sanity, I even think: and it will be better for that.  If I slow the fuck down and allow myself to breathe - allow these ideas to coalesce in their strongest form.  Which I don't yet know.

The resting thing is working.  Really well.  I even - gasp - wrote a poem yesterday when writing in my journal.  I don't know if it will become a real for the public poem but it just happened because I wasn't trying to make it happen.  Right now I can't do enough of the not trying bit.

Also, speaking with Johanna I was able to just cry about all this stuff with another person.  For many reasons she can understand, and for that I am grateful, deeply.  We haven't had a proper sit down talk in over 8 years but tonight were able to be there for each other.  So, so lovely.

In case it's not clear, I should say again: the grace note of my life is good friends.  This relationship gets short shrift in the traditional lexicon of life, all family-oriented as we are, which is fine as far as it goes, but a circle of close friends is God/dess's very own gift to someone like me who had a fairly raggedy-ass patchwork set of family circumstances (with the distinct exception in adulthood of my mother and step-father, Tom) that were hard to lean back on with anything like full weight but has always had, from about 8 years old onward, starting with my best-friend Kristen, someone to lean on and be there in return.  How on earth this happened, why I was given this ability when I was so clearly shitty at most other kinds of normal human interaction (and don't even get me started with how crap I was at anything resembling dating or casual acquaintances) - that is beyond me, but I am grateful for it and to all of you out there who have been and are and will be again even if we are distant now in my cherished circle of friendship.  You know who you are and you are all great, beyond great...I really, honestly, don't know what I would do or would have done without you.

I need to get up at a human hour tomorrow to fulfil a speaking commitment, so will leave this here.  Ravi Shankar and friends continue saying hindu things.  All is well.  Ugo is well and I need to do some yoga so my neck and shoulders unlock from their vice grip






Monday, January 9, 2012

Yoga, High Line & Invitation

Last night did some yoga - not in class but at home with guidance via the miracle of modern technology, this new fangled internet thing.  That just undercut all the gremlins that were snapping like little rat-tail vipers in my head...ok so that's a weird image but you get the point.

Today I got up feeling surprisingly chipper and decided the best use of the afternoon with my friend Christian would be to walk the Highline - which if you haven't done it yet is kind of great.  It's old above ground train tracks that had lay abandoned above the meat-packing district on the far West side of NYC.  They were renovated to include park-ish space, including a mixture of plants natural to the old track area and some new growth, a walkway, benches and public art that gives public art a good name - not always easy - and is inspiring lots of interesting architecture in its wake.  Some of it is just self-conscious but some is actually quite beautiful.  One of the best views was down into a structure that looked like a giant white gauze geodesic dome/airplane hangar that was functioning as a trapeze artist's practice facility - seeing people - from our perch view above the structure hopping up and down on trapeze devices, falling on nets and hurling themselves around in the twilight was quite spectacular.

I don't have a photo of that, but got an OK photo with my phone-camera of the walk as twilight began:


this gives you some idea but building at end was pink from sun

you can see track and how plant life is both 'native' and sculptured - building is seminary

I also watched the clouds, which were broken into little diamond-like pieces move in perfect formation slowly across the sky.  Nice.

The last few days I have been engaged in and tonight (while eating my single person's idea of health food, what I have dubbed this evening Kalfredo - which is actually quite good, namely gluten-free pasta with Newman's own Alfredo sauce mixed together with steamed kale) just finished Mary Karr's Lit.  This line, near the end of the book gives an example of why I think her writing is so fine, both in terms of form and content. "When you've been hurt enough as a kid (maybe at any age), it's like you have a trick knee.  Most of your life, you can function like an adult, but add in the right portions of sleeplessness and stress and grief, and the hurt, defeated self can bloom in place."

Yeah, it can and does.  Her ability to track her descent into alcoholism, recovery and extraordinary spiritual journey but also remain grounded in the muckier details of life instead of the we all lived happier ever after version is lovely.  She is clearly someone with sober time under her belt.  Also, and this is the most astonishing feat of all, she explain with crystal clarity how she went from being an atheist to being a Catholic.  She is as surprised as anyone else by this conversion and her description of the experiences, thoughts and discussions that led to this - mostly instigated by her young son's spiritual curiosity but then confirmed by running into a series of well-spoken, devout religious people, some of whom she already knew, is done so well that I didn't feel like I had to spit while reading it.

Her experiences with some of her mentors reminded me of the Catholic hospital where my father died two years ago, how amazing the nurses - who may have been nuns and/or brothers I don't know but for whatever reason they all seemed to have some kind of numinous aura grounded in the very real, human muck of an ICU - how they fought the evil Kaiser Permanente insurers to keep him there rather than moving him to Kaiser's crappy hospital, which was an insane request for the last day of a man's life - especially as he was there because Kaiser sent him home after his first heart attack with some Tylenol so he had to get in an ambulance to bring him to this onc, which was closer to his house - how these nurses were so kind to me who was sitting there alone - staring at a shell of a person being kept alive by various tubes and breathing machines - not so much human as like a floppy toy in pain.  The Scottish nurse brought me coffee, the South African nurse helped me understand the direness of the situation, so that through my jet lagged eyes I could see what needed to happen.  But also, astonishingly, just sit there for hours and hours watching him, watching all my anger and resentment lift, watch myself have patience and not have to rush, be able to cope with his partner when she did show up many hours later in her grief and confusion struggling as she does with her own issues, which are many - to let him ago.  Again.  The details they thought through: the aromatherapy cream - lavender, the hand made pillow cases for his head as he was passing when the machines were taken off - the plaster cast of his hand - the soothing voices.  The fact that as she did all this, the South African nurse was softlyy crying.  And I thought - oh my God, does she cry all day?  But it wasn't intrusive, it was compassionate.  And the crucifixes everywhere were not grossing me out.  The way this same nurse came up to me when we were leaving and said: you handled this so well.  It made me cry.  If I hadn't been sober for 23 years, meditated every day for 15 and prayed almost continually (silently) like all day, that would not have been the case.

No, I'm not Catholic and doubt I ever will be what the Pope issue and all, but the fact is I saw something I'd never seen before: the good side of Catholicism in action - devout people acting as they believed.  I'm also not saying secular people can't do that, of course they can - it was just this extra that was there at that time.

Karr's book brought that back.  Something about the humanity of it all - weirdly enough.  There is something blood and guts about Catholicism, it's true, that the various varieties of Protestantism I was haphazardly exposed to can sometimes skirt around.

I wrote Karr an abject fan letter earlier this evening - for so many reasons.  I imagine it will end up on a heap many feet tall and that's just fine.  She deserves it.  Do I envy her a little bit for nailing it so beautifully and so well, oh you bet I do, but begrudge her one tiny bit of the praise and support she has received, not a bit of it.  She's showing me how it's done.  I hope I can take the lessons, they are profound and it's not just about the writing.

So my gratitude today goes to the city of NYC for showing me its beauty tonight from the Highline, to my friend Christian for being a rock solid friend for so many years - since before I ever started the recovery process - and who has seen me now through two marriages - God help him - and our various spiritual and artistic quests, to Mary Karr who I've never met but has given me profound hope and even joy and to all of the (presumably) crazy ascetics who invented yoga, my deepest thanks.

I have had over the past few days begun missing aspects of the UK, which does not surprise me - what originally surprised me was the fact I wasn't missing them at first.  One of those things - which I was reminded of watching Downton Abbey (we just started watching series 2 over here British friends - and I wish you all in the UK could see how we lap it up over here - it's hilarious) - namely, the lack of desire to spew out everything about everything all the time and the ability for people to get things with a raise of the eyebrow.  Now, the fact I am writing this blog, which is so exposing and writing that I miss that level of reticence at the same time is truly absurd, but it's also true, so go figure.  Lord knows, I can't.  This same show, which kind of creeped me out when I was in the UK, I find charming when here.  Joseph Albers was right about more than just color.  You put the same thing in a different context and it changes - just like that.

I've also been overwhelmed recently by the provincialism of the US and even NYC - especially its triumphalism and the constant we are the greatest drum beat.  It is kind of embarrassing.  I think the fact the Republican primaries are now in full gear doesn't help.  But also, and this is what I remember being guilty of myself, the voices of the left/dissent that speaks in a way that implies the US is the Worst place in the world.  In other words, whatever it is, it has to be the -est of it...Worst-est, Best, Biggest, Stupidest, Smartest...whatever.  It's like a whole country built on the piece of shit the world revolves around complex of the average alcoholic.

It's still home, though, for better or for worse...but, as I suspected I would discover when I came back, I've been in the UK for eight years, too, and I'm not just an American anymore either.  I did write about this earlier in October, I'm now remembering...it's funny writing a daily blog, because I'll write about something like it's an original thought (of mine I mean - not original in the World) and then remember mid-typing - oh no, I already said that last month.

I'm keeping this in though, for a couple reasons - so I can see my repetitions but also because I know folks keep picking up this blog midstream.

Speaking of which: thanks again to all of you who read from all the many, many countries where you live.  I wish I knew who you were.  I can see from the statistics your numbers are growing, which is heartening.  I know sometimes the comments section doesn't work properly but then it rights itself - so please feel free to comment and let me know who you are, what you think of this crazy thing and all like that...

Oh and I should mention for anyone in NYC, there will be a staged reading of We live in financial times at The Brecht Forum in the West Village at 7:30pm on January 20 & 21.  Below is the official invite.  I am not on Facebook, so if you are interested in helping me publicize this event, please feel free to lift the invite off of this post and paste it on your Facebook page.  It should be an interesting two evenings, especially as it will feature a talk back with people from Occupy Wall Street and people from the banking industry.  Should be quite a conversation.

Invite starts here:



We live in financial times, Part 1: Blackberry Curve 
by Julia Lee Barclay

director: Rik Walter

performers:

Marietta Hedges*
Matt Higgins
Terry Runnels
Kevin Scott
Alyssa Simon*

at 
The Brecht Forum
451 West Street (Bank & Bethune)

January 20 & 21
7:30pm

(includes talk-back with speakers from OWS and banking industry - should be a rollicking good time!)


Who's laughing now? 


We live in financial times, Part 1: Blackberry Curve is a darkly funny theatrical shell game wherein the conventions of character and story (in the form of Mike and James, investment bankers alone with an angry female voice they do not understand) collapse and attempt to frantically reassemble.  Global capitalism as tragic farce.

Want reservations?  Sure you do!  

You can reserve directly through Brecht Forum at: 



If you can pay something, we are grateful, as it benefits The Brecht Forum and Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory, who have donated space and time, and the artists, all of whom are volunteering their time. 

If, however, you are in the industry or need a comp for any reason, please RSVP at ftreservations@gmail.com with your name and affiliation (union, theater, freelance, whatever...).  Your reservation is confirmed unless you hear back from us.  If you cannot make it, please do get in touch, as we have limited seating each night.


The Brecht Forum, founded in 1975, is an independent educational and cultural institution serving New York's broad left and progressive communities. Throughout the year, the Brecht Forum offers a wide-ranging program of classes, public lectures and seminars, art exhibitions, performances, popular education workshops, and language classes. Some affiliated projects include the Institute for Popular Education, founded in 1990 in collaboration with the Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory; and Arts at the Brecht, which includes ongoing arts programming in collaboration with such projects as Neues Kabarett, an experimental jazz series initiated in 1998, Strike Anywhere Theater Ensemble, and Red Channels, a radical media collective.


The Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory (TOPLAB) was founded in 1990 and is the oldest group in the United States offering facilitation training in the techniques of Theater of the Oppressed, a methodology created in the 1960s and 1970s by Brazilian director Augusto Boal, with whom TOPLAB facilitators enjoyed a close collaboration and working relationship until his death in 2009.


*appearing courtesy AEA