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.


Friday, November 30, 2012

..and now a message from our sponsor: Marcel Proust

OK, so a friend read this to me today from Proust's final chapter of Remembrance of Things Past (aka In Search of Lost Time), which is 'Time Regained'.

I spent a summer in the mid-90s reading Remembrance of Things Past in lieu of doing admin work for my theater company.  This was a wise choice.  If you want to change your life - and especially if you are an artist/writer/creator of any kind - just stop what you're doing (outside of bare necessities to make ends meet) and read Proust.  I'm serious.

This is why:

"As for the inner book of unknown symbols (symbols carved in relief they might have been, which my attention, as it explored my unconscious, groped for and stumbled against and followed the contours of, like a diver exploring the ocean-bed), if I tried to read them no one could help me with any rules, for to read them was an act of creation in which no one can do our work for us or even collaborate with us.  How many for this reason turn aside from writing!  What tasks do men not take upon themselves in order to evade this task!  Every public event, be it the Dreyfus case, be it the war, furnishes the writer with a fresh excuse for not attempting to decipher this book: he wants to ensure the triumph of justice, he wants to restore the moral unity of the nation, he has no time to think of literature.  But these are mere excuses, the truth being that he has not or no longer has genius, that is to say instinct.  For instinct dictates our duty and the intellect supplies us with pretexts for evading it.  But excuses have no place in art and intentions count for nothing: at every moment the artist has to listen to his instinct, and it is this that makes art the most real of all things, the most austere school of life, the true last judgment.  The book, more laborious to decipher than any other, is also the only one which has been dictated to us by reality, the only one of which the "impression" has been printed in us by reality itself.  When an idea - an idea of any kind - is left in us by life, its material pattern, the outline of the impression that it made upon us, remains behind as the token of its necessary truth.  The ideas formed by the pure intelligence have no more than a logical, a possible truth, they are arbitrarily chosen.  The book whose hieroglyphs are patterns not traced by us is the only book that really belongs to us.  Not that the ideas which we form for ourselves cannot be correct in logic; that may well be, but we cannot know whether they are true.  Only the impression, however trivial its material may seem to be, however faint its traces, is a criterion of truth and deserves for that reason to be apprehended by the mind, for the mind, if it succeeds in extracting this truth, can by the impression and by nothing else be brought to a state of greater perfection and given a pure joy.  The impression is for the writer what experiment is for the scientist, with the difference that in the scientist the work of the intelligence precedes the experiment and in the writer it comes after the impression.  What we have not had to decipher, to elucidate by our own efforts, what was clear before we looked at it, is not ours.  From ourselves comes only that which we drag forth from the obscurity which lies within us, that which to others is unknown."

Marcel Proust - Time Regained (pp 913-914 from Remembrance of Things Past Vol. III trans: C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin)


***

I can hear the yelps of protest from my post-structuralist friends and PhDs, the hand-wringing about mystifying artistic processes, the use of the dreaded word 'truth' and of course the 'he' as normative pronoun.  If that is your response, my suggestion is to please breathe, re-read, listen and allow in what he's saying.  Maybe it does not speak to you and if so, OK.  But if it does speak to you, please don't let theoretical ideas of right and wrong get in the way of the resonance.  Remember, too, that Deleuze & Guattari were Proust fans, being arguably the least anti-art of most of the French post-WWII crew.

I am unpicking my way through this thicket right now, shedding the academic tone I had to take to finish my own PhD and allowing back in these kind of basic, beautiful (ah the dread word: beautiful) insights into my life.  I thought I had not allowed the PhD process to interfere with my artistic processes, but I was wrong.  It's impossible not to have it affect one's work.  I am hoping and praying that something good will have come of that process, but right now…I'm allowing myself back into the world of 'instinct' as Proust defines it.

It's scary and it feels good.

Perhaps this was the gift of the PhD process.  The final wonderful paradox: it brings me back here.  Or as Albee wrote in Zoo Story "Sometimes you have to go a long way out of your way to get back the right way correctly."

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

53,000+ words!

My grandmothers book The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick and Jani is meanwhile barrelling along - checked word count and it's over 53,000 words.  This is from transcribing all the handwritten stuff I'd written from May 2011-March 2012 in two notebooks and adding in things, editing, etc.

I still have more research to do (meaning reading All the stuff I have from Jani mostly - not just selected things) and feel I've only scratched the surface.  The voices of both Dick and Jani are warbly at times - in some parts I've gotten closer and other times the writing feels only like a placeholder waiting for the real writing (ie voice) to take its place.  I need to breathe into them both even more deeply.  If they were purely fictional in some ways it may be easier.  But I feel this need to allow them to speak as them, which is way harder than it sounds.

Still, figured I would at least give myself some credit for time in and words written.  There is a lot more.  This may in fact be more than one book.  Not really sure.  Many of the words written so far will need to be edited.

I have boxes of material still to sift through that I didn't know existed when I began.

Wish me luck.  I'll really, seriously need it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Another painful anniversary

Wanted to not keep writing about this but the fact is it's breaking my heart.  Today - well yesterday now - was what would have been my mother and my stepfather Tom's 29th wedding anniversary.  Last year I was in Maine with them both and we ordered in Chinese food to celebrate.  It was a fun and light time and not one anyone thought would be the last.  We had had Thanksgiving a couple days earlier - same there.

While my mother has been dealing with the grinding day to day loss of Tom for months now, I don't have nearly as much in person presence to mourn except intermittently and I realized today quite painfully that this is one of them.  The next one will be Christmas, which was the last time I saw him alive.  My mother will be here for that.

I have been so concerned for my mother's well-being, I have not paid enough attention to my own loss but today pushed me over the edge.  Because my mother made it clear she was OK with me staying home in NYC over Thanksgiving rather than coming up to Maine because I was so fucking exhausted, I have done so and was given what I now as a gift of a cold to slow me down long enough to know how excruciating this loss is.

My good friend Julie suggested I come up with some phrase that was more adequate than stepfather to describe my relationship to Tom and I am stumped, not because I don't get what she means - stepfather sounds so distant and he was anything but.  This suggestion is what started my crying today and  feeling my own pain - to paraphrase John Lennon.

I'm having a hard time typing because I'm crying while I'm writing.  I know this is a good thing because it means I finally feel safe enough to feel this, that I'm letting go of the sense of shock and emergency that I entered when he died because of concerns over my mother and also probably just because it sucks to feel this much pain.

I may have written this here already and if I have apologies but Tom really got me, he understood me in a whole and real and unsentimental way that only someone who really loves you can understand you.  For me to receive this kind of loving attention from a male person (not in a creepy way - I hasten to add in case that's not crystal clear) was a first.  I'm not sure if I've found its like in the world, the only person that comes to mind was my drama teacher in high-school Terry Ortwein, also deceased prematurely, from Parkinson's.  So it is a profound loss of someone who is quite literally irreplaceable in my life.

I know many of you who read this will have experienced this kind of loss in your life and if there is a gift here, it is that: to know another's suffering, to be able to sympathize as well as empathize with another's loss.

My friend Julie passed on this Rilke quotation she heard on the radio show On Being.  I read it at Tom's internment:

"The great secret of death, and perhaps its deeper connection with us, is this: that, in taking from us a being we have loved and venerated, death does not wound us without, at the same time, lifting us toward a more perfect understanding of this being and of ourselves."

I believe this is true.  But it does wound us first.  The gift only comes after that.

Yes, but today - after crying Round 1 this afternoon, I sat and watched the twilight turn into the gloaming over the inlet at the tip of Inwood.  I saw gulls and geese and loons and herons turn colors from white to grey to silhouette - and the train and the moon and the radio of the young couple who sat on a bench near me, sipping coffee from the cafe.  Taking it all in.  One of the last blog posts Tom commented on involved me staring out at this beautiful little bit of the world, sun gleaming then, wind brushing the light into whirlpools of diamonds.  I noticed this at the same time as bemoaning the racism across the bridge that had killed a young man who was friends with a student of mine.  It's all here.  It's all real.  This is it.  This is us. It is all of it.  Cherry picking or gloom mongering is distortion.  My shadow side these days is the light.  I am just now beginning to see glimmers of my shadow.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Why you should help John Clancy and Nancy Walsh right now

I very rarely do this, in fact I think I have never done this on this blog, but I'm going to make a pitch here for why you should help two artists/producers, John Clancy and Nancy Walsh, who were seminal in making a whole downtown NYC theater scene explode into consciousness in the 1990s and 2000s.

They were two of the people, along with Elena Holy, who formed The Present Company in the 1990s. At first they worked out of a space in Hell's Kitchen, but in the late-90s, after having launched the first FringeNYC festival (which is now a NYC institution run by the indefatigable Elena Holy), they decided they needed a theater space so bought what had basically been a garage/crack den on Stanton Street and converted it into The Present Company Theatorium.  This was a crazy idea built on little more than a dream, when the Lower East Side was still dangerous, especially East of Essex.  This now seems like a joke, I know, but believe me back in the 90s, it was not overrun by expensive widgit shops and artisanal cafes.

They made it work, just…and at a certain point it stopped working as a space, but the Fringe kept going and John and Nan decided in 2001 (right before 9/11) to do more independent producing and Elena held down The Present Company fort, eventually transitioning to offices in midtown with other artists and focusing primarily on FringeNYC.

OK, so those are the base facts.  But why help John and Nan now?  Well, here's why I did (and versions of my story can be told by many other artists who they nurtured at crucial times in their creative careers).

Back in the same 1990s, I was transitioning from running a theater company to doing my own exploratory work in a lab with some brave actors from that company (Fred Backus, Chris Campbell, Renee Bucciarelli and Dan Berkey primarily).  I was paying for space to do this, having no idea where this work was going, all of us following impulses like so many human divining rods.  Enter John Clancy.  He decides to pop by and see this lab.  Originally, we had rented space at the old Present Company and he'd seen some of the work we had done with Monkey Wrench Theater.  So we knew each other.

He sits watching a lab wherein I think we were exploring the idea of the gender grid.  This meant somehow creating scenarios about gender and following them wherever they went.  Sometimes these workshops got very weird and conflicts arose between all of us that were in relation to the work but also each other.  The idea of the 'grid' is the rules of the room, so we were tapping into stuff that was pretty deep at times.  Like I said, I had no idea where this was going.

John watched one of these workshops and got very excited by it, because he's like that, fearless - likes stuff that's alive.  He said, why don't you guys come over and work in our new space?  For free.

So, just like that, we had free rehearsal space in NYC.  This is rare and invaluable.  Granted the space was the back room of a dank theater space where sometimes we had to choose between heat or light because the electrics were so bad, and the idea of lying on the carpet was - well - probably not very wise.  But, we had space.  And more than that: we had the confidence of a peer.  We went from exploring on our own to exploring within the context of a larger community.

John, Nan and Elena then accepted my proposal to direct a show, Gorky's Wife written by a friend of mine, Greek playwright, Elena Penga.  They produced this show.  In the course of that experience, we all made plenty of mistakes, it was one of those 'learning experiences' you wish you didn't have to have.  But in the midst of it, John once again proved himself the mensch that he is.  First, we lost an actor right before opening and John, summer stock vet that he was, memorized the role overnight and performed in the play.  Consequently, he also helped us deal with the issue of the large rat that kept popping up in the dressing room and once even on stage (only in NYC: diva rats).

After this show, we all sat down to talk about what went wrong.  This conversation alone was a minor miracle (because it was civilized and constructive not blamey and weird).  We all had stuff to answer for and we all knew it  In the midst of that conversation, John turned to me and said: write down what it is you really want to do and give it to me.  We'll see what we can do.

What I wrote in response to that request in 1999 remained my mission statement for many years, was the centerpiece of my PhD thesis in 2009 and the mission of Apocryphal Theatre.  It is still a guiding document today.  Though I am in a deep period of introspection, having such a specific document is valuable even if it shifts because it points to where I've been and may go.  The larger point is: from a pretty crappy situation, John requested something of me that has been invaluable.

The lab went on to show experiments at the Theatorium, we taught workshops at FringeNYC, one of which led to my being asked to teach in London at Chisenhale Dance Space in 2000 - which led eventually to my being in London for 8 years, running a theater company, doing a PhD, etc.

But wait there's more…In the midst of the 1990s period, I wrote a text.  Something I wasn't sure what it was, but that became Word to Your Mama (my first stage text).  I had never written a professional stage text before and was directing it for the briefly incarnated yet wondrous Screaming Venus Kallisti Festival.  I had no idea what I was doing.  (Translation: I was very scared and very happy - these are Always the times I'm happiest and usually do my best work but at the time am terrified.)  We were having a great time.  I was working with Nicole Higgins, Kate Ward and Monica Sirignano, while we stumbled through how to make this into something that could go on stage.

Before anyone saw it, I asked John to come to a dress rehearsal.  The first run through had been painful and slow and I was nervous about what he would see.  I became very ill the night before with food poisoning (or fear depending on your POV) and could not make it to that rehearsal.  My ADs (Carolyn Raship and Julie Blumenthal) were there to lead the run through.  I was suffering on the sofa, unable to move my body when the phone rang.  I let the answering machine get it (remember: old fashioned answering machines?!) and heard John's voice talking about how great he thought the piece was and how it should be in the Fringe and just babbling goodness on the phone.  (John and I share this enthusiasm gene: when loving something, we really love it - and yes the opposite also applies.)

Perhaps needless to say, I suddenly felt much better, rose from my bed and walked and we had a great run of the show, both at Kallisti in midtown and downtown during FringeNYC 2000.  The play was published by Martin Denton his New York Theatre Experience series in Plays & Playwrights 2001.  John has since selected it for a syllabus called Indie Theater 101, which is or will be available soon on  indietheaternow.com.

I have not mentioned Nan here, but she is equally important.  She was somehow always there, with a supportive word, or helping out by acting in a reading of a new piece.  Her presence is essential as an actor and human being.  She is grounding, has a wicked and wonderful sense of humor and a no BS New England sensibility.  We all spent ages in their apartment in the Lower East Side either plotting new theater schemes, shooting the shit, suffering through the 2000 election or mourning 9/11.

Their apartment on the Lower East Side.  This apartment has been a focal point for many people to crash, hang, get their support or just fucking freak out.  And it is this apartment they are in danger of losing.  For the first time I remember ever, John and Nan are asking for help, and it is to keep this apartment.

They have given and given for years, even as Nan has struggled (with astonishing resilience) since 2002 with brain tumors.  They have brought their own and others' work to Edinburgh, produced countless shows downtown and started numerous helpful organizations to promote the whole downtown theater community.

But even more than that: they are human beings, who have shared their human-ness with so many.  Now it's time to give back or if you don't know them, pay it forward.

I urge you to help them in their campaign by clicking here: Indiegogo



Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Poor Kids on Frontline

You just have to go and watch this documentary if you didn't see it tonight.  You can watch it for free on pbs.org at Frontline.  It is a devastating account of American poverty from children's perspectives.  Their parents all are working.  They still don't have enough to eat or stable places to live.  The girls reminded me very much of my friends when I lived in Waterford, CT in the early 70s and other kids I knew in rural Maine in the 60s.  I was never quite that poor, though we were pretty close at times.  At these friend's houses, I slept over night on beds without sheets, had dinners that weren't dinners and spent time in houses with little to no furniture.

The fact there is not more help for both the kids and their struggling parents then or now (no surprise two of the three families struggling because of health issues) is a disgrace.

The fact that the 'sponsor' of the show was Goldman Sachs hawking the idea that their investment in companies will save the world beggars belief.  I suppose we are meant to believe if they were investing in these sad little people's towns all would be well.  Disgusting.

What is so gut wrenching about the documentary, made not surprisingly by a British filmmaker, is that the kids are so resilient in one way and so vulnerable in another.  They are wise beyond their years.  Most of them are having trouble enrolling in school because of instability, however, so what will become of them?

It's a terrifying and fearless look into everything that is wrong with America.  Having lived for 8 years in a country, the UK, where there is an actual safety net, I am just mortified Again by my own country.  And ashamed.

That's not enough though.  Action is necessary.  The Occupy movement is part of that, yes.  But there needs to be a deeper change in consciousness.  I really hope enough people watch this show to begin that shift away from the idiotic idea that 'the market' will save us.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Have a cold.

Yes it's that basic.  I have a cold.  I haven't written in here for a while so just checking in briefly.  Typing in bed…

After the election, I taught a class, then went to the internment of my stepfather Tom in his hometown of York, PA.  That was difficult though was able to connect with Tom's sister and her husband.  The event was simple, a graveside Episcopal service.  I read T.S. Eliot and Rilke.  Tom's daughter did a remembrance, there were psalms and prayers.  I'm not a big organized religion person so it just washes over me.  No connection.  A box of ashes in the ground.  Lots of younger people milling around.  Wanting to connect.  Not sure I did.

Basically, I'm in that time of grieving wherein I'm just kind of depressed and exhausted.  I have managed to get some applications out, which is good.  Would be incredible if any of them came to anything.  Haven't done any writing.  Have no energy except for the absolutely necessary.

Loss is loss and it feels like this right now.  Wish I had something beautiful to say about it.  I don't.

I have had some lovely times here and there with friends old and new.

I'm going to ground.  Some kind of zero.  Then we'll see what's next.

Back to bed...Happy Thanks Giving.  (I am grateful by the way, for much, but right now just feel exhausted.  Been trying to outrun that exhaustion but that led to the cold.)

Somewhere in my building someone burnt toast.  Ah, NYC apartment living.

Update: no, not toast, the remnants of my ginger/lemon tea boiling in a pan.  Good thing I was still awake.  No one died, except the pan.  Alas, poor pan, I knew ye when I had just bought you from Homegoods...

Friday, November 9, 2012

The female body...




Received this via email today - no attribution to the image but it's just gorgeous.  Will let it stand.


And, in regards to the election: well, phew.  Theocracy averted, multicultural demographic asserted, 20 women voted into the Senate.  Still a raging capitalist whacko-ville, but it could be worse.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Vote with your uterus girls & those who love them/us

Hey there girlfriends and the men who love them:  so like I know Obama isn't perfect, OK.  I don't agree with his use of drones and a lot of other things besides.  However, I do care that I get to control my body, specifically my uterus and that my step-nieces get to control theirs, not to mention students and many people I know.  Sadly, this election has come down to controlling a basic body part for women.  It is that sad.

There are other things of course.  Jobs to me at this point is a nonsense word, not because the ability to make a living is nonsense but because the idea that the dude who brought you Bain Capital that did more to throw people out of work in this country in favor of 3rd world country workers is going to bring us jobs that allow people to make a living is just a big fucking joke.

Plus there's Paul Ryan and his happy band of religious fundamentalists who would be happy with Sharia law if it was called Christian.

So, the choice is clear if you're female and believe you should be able to: (a) have access to birth control, (b) control your own uterus and (c ) be assured that if you are raped, no one will ask you if it's been a 'legitimate' rape or not…you know stuff like that.

Therefore, if you're female and/or love the women in your life, the choice is clear.

Please vote.    

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Of grieving and gratitude

So I'm on the train as I type this, traveling to D.C. to direct a reading of my play We live in financial times at Busboys & Poets for Monday night (see right hand panel for details) and feeling weird like I'm abandoning NYC, which is how I felt when I left NYC for the first time after 9/11, which wasn't until Thanksgiving of that year.  Even more so then, I felt like I wanted to cling to every stone and piece of pavement, every tree, person and store sign, hoping it wouldn't move.

Now it's more about the people, hoping everyone will be there when I got back.  Someone I met when I first moved to Inwood died suddenly a few weeks ago so that was rattling and very sad.  He was someone who welcomed me and was a lovely soul.  Seeing body bags coming out of Staten Island is also horrendous.  I don't have a TV so the images come in fits and starts online, from the NYTimes and Twitter.

A moment to say: during an ongoing crisis, Twitter can be amazing if you find people to follow that you trust and don't get overly excited about rumors that come from unknown sources.  I leaned heavily on Twitter during Sandy and before that the riots in London in August 2011.  That was how I found my local MP Stella Creasy (in London) who was walking around checking out every rumor in person, until 3am each night.  Her twitter feed, unlike the news was Not hysterical, was reasoned and had a lot to do with keeping Walthamstow calm.

Through Twitter this time I could keep up to date with details of power, subways, etc. without having to see images and more images of destruction or watch all the political posturing.

I am going in and out of some form of PTSD, that much I know.  It takes many forms - goes back to 9/11 and further back than that.  I am also simultaneously OK and stable.  It's hard to explain this paradox, but it is my life these days: both feeling lots of emotions, sometimes overwhelming emotion, but at the same time able to function - but crucially NOT in some disassociated way, which may seem efficient and calm but is actually cover for lights on, nobody home and is usually accompanied by a low level sense of resentment that others can't keep their own shit together as well as me, thank you very much.

My functioning now is both on a much more basic, somewhat compromised level.  I am exhausted, forgetful, sometimes just cry or want to cry.  But I can also move forward with my basic commitments, self-care, caring for my cat, my artistic commitments, work stuff and other commitments to people with whom I meet in church basements on folding chairs.

My service during Sandy has been limited to taking friends from downtown in to my uptown apartment and going to meetings where people talk a lot about how they feel and how powerless we are over this and that.  This actually helps as improbable as that must sound to any of you who have no experience of such groups.  On paper, it really shouldn't work, the fact it does is no small miracle.

So I am grateful for those meetings, for my friends, for Amtrak trains working, for the subway rumbling back, for having had power and internet the whole time of Sandy, for not having had to lose my home or life or the life of someone very close to me, at least not this month.

Speaking of which, next weekend will be the internment of my stepfather Tom's ashes, a ritual I frankly dread.  I have been to memorial celebrations, which are one thing, even funerals.  But putting a body or ashes in the ground is excruciating.  My last experience of that was a friend from London who lost his 10 year old daughter from a chronic illness.  Seeing that little pink coffin go into the ground was unbelievably awful, though the place: a wood in East London, was so beautiful it was a strangely bittersweet experience.  I just stared at Sean and his wife Laura arm in arm with their other two gorgeous little ones, love coming off them like actual light, astonished at their dignity, their pain, their grieving AND their gratitude for everyone.  Life and death so close the line seemed almost translucent.  Laura got pregnant again soon after Alice's death and they have another child now.   These are people without a lot of money by the way, and if they had lived in the U.S. I don't know if they could have gotten the care and assistance they had and have in the UK.

These experiences of loss, all of them, are a hurricane.  Some seem personal, but none of them are.  That is what Job is about I believe - today anyway.  Human powerlessness in the face of these larger forces.  We can rant and rail against it all, we can resist what is, we can and do get angry, hurt, sad, cry, jump up and down and that's OK and natural.  But it won't change a thing.

But in the same way these things don't happen To us in a personal way, they also aren't Caused by us.  The whole surrender to reality thing is actually quite freeing.  Because until we acknowledge there Is in fact a hurricane in front of us, we won't do anything to get out of its path or understand the carnage we see around us.  I think this is in part what Nietzsche was on about when he talked in the Four Great Errors about false causality.  So many things go into every moment that are out of our control.  The tragicomedy of human experience is how much we think we do control when we don't.  Or blame others for their actions for the same reason.  Gods help us all.

Now that I think about it, the end of We live in financial times is an attempt to address this fact.  So while I have frankly not been able to even think about this staged reading I'm about to direct, I have been experiencing it.  In my Very Long history of directing (since 1980 = 32 years - yikes!), these moments can be quite fruitful because I am forced to look at what is rather than what I wish was there.  The true reality of the room rather than my Ideas about it.  Because I don't have any other choice, that's a damn good thing.

Having said that, I now have a couple hours on a train so should use this time to re-read my own damn play….

If you're in D.C. on Monday (eve of election day in the U.S., Guy Fawkes night in the UK - and what an interesting combo that is!), please do come along and join us.  Dean Baker who will be joining us for the talkback predicted the 2008 crash and I for one want to hear what he says about where we are now and - selfishly - if the play embodies this in any meaningful way.  I believe it does something philosophically, but am not an economist so want to know if I got any of that right or whether my attempts at grasping that world (especially as it relates to theater/tricks/feints are off.

Be well everyone.  I miss you already NYC.  Please everyone stay safe and please all of the social services and Occupy folks and everyone who's pitching in, take care of all the folks who are suffering.  Thank you all who are doing this unsung work, and also the MTA workers, train folks, hospital workers, police, sanitation people, teachers, administrators on all levels…all of you: you are what makes NYC hum, strum and keep its beat and I love you all.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Inwood Update No. 2

Some of us in Inwood feel so lucky to have been spared the hell of places like Hoboken or the fires in Queens and/or slow tedium of life without power or basics downtown that we're beginning to almost feel guilty.  We just keep getting days off from work and time with our local friends.

So, I'm now hosting downtown friends uptown, so they can have a day with whacky stuff like lights, a shower, internet access and cooked food.  The first one tonight is an old friend from college, Spencer, who arrived a few days ago from Spain and is staying at a friends' amazing house downtown.  All great except a hurricane showed up, he has no phone, power, etc.  So, while we had hoped to sneak in a couple hours during his busy schedule meeting publishers and drumming up support for his project in the Honduras working with orphans on creating a book of poetry (more on that later), instead we met at a cafe on the Upper West Side (he walked from 10th to 96th Street and I started by bus then got a livery cab from 204th), went to a writer's meeting together and another friend from college drove us back up to my place where we had the luxury of many hours to catch up after not having seen each other in 25 years.  He read me some of his newest, extraordinary poetry, which was quite a treat.

Tomorrow, we will be joined by friend Nina who has been stuck in her place alone downtown without power for days.  As she said, the novelty of reading by candlelight and her new intimacy with neighbors is wearing off and now (because she is freelance and works out of her home), she needs to just start working again.  Plus have a real shower.

The good news is: apparently my Housing Works thrift-store fold out sofa works.  I have ordered an air bed but that hasn't arrived yet.  Was originally for my mother's visit over Christmas but wish I had ordered earlier so could bring in more power outage refugees.

This is my little way of helping out.

I am being much less productive but having a lot more fun, so there you have it.  And what a gift to have time with friends, old and new.

The day before was spent with local friends, walking through Inwood, hanging out at Darling Cafe with the many blinking souls happy to be outside, with their little children in tow, wearing such combos as tutus, striped stocking, polka dot rain coats and little blue wellies or golden waterproof shoes, all of us happily drinking fancy things like cinnamon roiboos tea and soy lattes.  We walked close to the park but not inside because not allowed.  We took photos of downed trees, everyone smiling at each other, knowing how lucky we all were to be alive and so comfortable.  The evening was spent in Riverdale watching a silly movie and eating pizza with another friend who kindly picked me up and drop me off in his now-much-desired-yet-not-usually-considered-necessary-in-NYC: car.

However, there is still the sense of the devastation downtown, the photos of the ravages of the fires and flooding, knowing the grinding frustration of so many and seeing the weird subway map for tomorrow. Blessings, first of all for the MTA for getting any of the subway up and running this fast given the fact the Entire system was flooded.  But this map, with downtown invisible can only remind many of us of 9/11, and the sense of injury.  This time a hurricane, which you can't blame personally (thank God/dess for that) but the sense of devastation nonetheless.  And Gov. Cuomo saying - wisely - that we have to learn from this storm because there will be more like it, we are vulnerable now.  Yes, Virginia, there is a climate change.

Hurricane Sandy seeming to be fulfilling Jung's prophecy that whatever you repress comes back to you as fate.  Climate change not discussed during this election because we need "jobs" aka dirty energy aka climate change issues a luxury item we can't address.  Then along comes Sandy to say: not so fast.  I'm here, I'm pissed off and I'm not Going Anywhere.

Like all disasters involving high winds and tides, it cleans out the cobwebs of denial of so much, offers openings desired and profoundly not desired.  Loss of people and place, rearrangement of literal and spiritual and emotional furniture.

Prayers and blessings to those of you who have had horrendous losses and to those of you who have found new joys and rest.  We're all here and Sandy has reminded us that we are lucky to be so, this gift of life is nothing to take for granted and none of us really owns - well - anything.