Welcome to my blog..

"We struggle with dream figures and our blows fall on living faces." Maurice Merleau-Ponty

When I started this blog in 2011, I was in a time of transition in my life between many identities - that of Artistic Director of a company (Apocryphal Theatre) to independent writer/director/artist/teacher and also between family identity, as I discover a new family that my grandfather's name change at the request of his boss in WWII hid from view - a huge Hungarian-Slovak contingent I met in 2011. Please note in light of this the irony of the name of my recently-disbanded theatre company. This particular transition probably began in the one month period (Dec. 9, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010) in which I received a PhD, my 20 year old cat died on my father's birthday and then my father, who I barely knew, died too. I was with him when he died and nothing has been the same since. This blog is tracing the more conscious elements of this journey and attempt to fill in the blanks. I'm also writing a book about my grandmothers that features too. I'd be delighted if you joined me. (Please note if you are joining mid-route, that I assume knowledge of earlier posts in later posts, so it may be better to start at the beginning for the all singing, all dancing fun-fair ride.) In October 2011, I moved back NYC after living in London for 8 years and separated from my now ex-husband, which means unless you want your life upended entirely don't start a blog called Somewhere in Transition. In November 2011, I adopted a rescue cat named Ugo. He is lovely. As of January 2012, I began teaching an acting class at Hunter College, which is where one of my grandmothers received a scholarship to study acting, but her parents would not let her go. All things come round…I began to think it may be time to stop thinking of my life in transition when in June 2012 my stepfather Tom suddenly died. Now back in the U.S. for a bit, I notice, too, my writing is more overtly political, no longer concerned about being an expat opining about a country not my own. I moved to my own apartment in August 2012 and am a very happy resident of Inwood on the top tip of Manhattan where the skunks and the egrets roam in the last old growth forest on the island.

I am now transitioning into being married again with a new surname (Barclay-Morton). John is transitioning from Canada to NYC and as of June 2014 has a green card. So transition continues, but now from sad to happy, from loss to love...from a sense of alienation to a sense of being at home in the world.

As of September 2013 I started teaching writing (composition and rhetoric) as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. While felt blessed for the opportunity, after four years of this, the lack of pay combined with heavy work load stopped working, so have transferred this teaching passion to private workshops in my own apartment and working with writers one on one, which I adore. I will die a happy person if I never have to grade an assignment ever again.

I worked full time on the book thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign in May 2014 and completed it at two residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Wisdom House in summer 2015. I have done some revisions and am shopping it around to agents and publishers now, along with a new book recently completed.

I am now working full-time as a freelance writer, writing workshop leader, coach, and editor. Contact me if you are interested in any of these services.

Not sure when transition ends, if it ever does. As the saying goes, the only difference between a sad ending and a happy ending is where you stop rolling the film.

For professional information, publications, etc., go to my linked in profile and website for Barclay Morton Editorial & Design. My Twitter account is @wilhelminapitfa. You can find me on Facebook under my full name Julia Lee Barclay-Morton. More about my grandmothers' book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani

Recently, I started a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. I will be blogging there, too, now. You can also contact me through that site.

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.


  1. Simply love what you wrote. I'm a Romanian teacher of English working at a thesis on Americanness and I've found it inspiring.

  2. Thank you. It's always good to know that someone's reading and hearing this (inspired even!). The seeing double has if anything increased since I wrote this in January.

    Sorry your comment didn't publish right away, but because of spam, I have to approve any comment over 14 days old.