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.

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


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

The Brecht Forum
451 West Street (Bank & Bethune)

January 20 & 21

(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

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