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


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Buried Treasure!

So, I'm up in Maine with my mother celebrating her birthday, which has been lovely.  Today it was grey so I spent the time going through more boxes of my grandmother Jani's writings...which are legion, and include drafts of fiction books (none of which were published), zillions of articles and opinion pieces about feminisim, racism and education written in the 70s (many of which were published), poems (legion but not published) and many many many half-written notes, letters, etc.  Also an on-going correspondence with a guy she really liked a lot but uncharacteristically did not end up becoming his lover, which is probably why they remained such good friends for so long, come to think of it...the one married man who decided to remain faithful to his wife and good on him.

But the amazing thing I unearthed in a file that was mis-labeled as a chapter from one of her fiction books is her 'obituary' that she wrote for her grandchildren.  This is a 30+ page document starting with early childhood memories.  She had lung cancer and knew she was dying for about 9 months so had time to reflect on her life and did.   I knew her then, was at times her caretaker in the early months when she was still mobile and staying with my mother and me during the summer of 1979.  We spent an incredible summer on Peaks Island, Maine that I will never forget, because this scary, formidable woman became someone to whom I could speak.  I was 16 so we could communicate better because of that as well - I had stood up to her earlier in the year, which kind of surprised her, but I think probably earned her respect as well.  During that summer, we spent many silent hours together, which I realized, having also found today her writing about that time, she enjoyed as much as I did.  We spent time together talking, too - going through old photos, told stories, shared poetry and found a still but vibrant place we shared.

I feel blessed that happened and hope I can do her justice in the book.  She was a deeply flawed person, which makes her, well, a person.  Perhaps this is the 'wisdom' of my years...which is: duh - we are all deeply flawed. It helps to remember that when writing about someone else or for that matter one's self.

It's late, I'm bleary eyed from decoding handwriting as lame as my own...so gonna make this short, but wanted to mark this day because it's important.  Persistence and sheer bloody-mindedness is paying off.  This book is gonna take a long time to complete. There will be no sprint.  It's gonna be a marathon.  But it's all I fucking care about doing.

Oh, which reminds me of another realization I had about this process: this part of the writing and research is simply about mining the raw material so of course it's excruciating and feels gunky and awkward and at times like I'm in a big dark cave with no fucking exit and a stupid light on my head that barely illuminates the impenetrable rock in front of me.  Because that's what it actually is.  Moments like finding the obituary are the rare moments of finding the vein, the little gold streak...that tells you, maybe...maybe there is something here after all, not just a smelly, dark, depressing fucking Cave...

We'll see...but until I go through this shit and sort it and somehow put it down/record/imagine it, I can't get to the crafting stage.  It's just about picking away with a tiny little Shawshank Redemption sized rock pick at a big-ass wall of Darkness...in hopes of finding the proverbial light at the end of it...or something.  Too tired to keep my hackneyed metaphors straight so over and out...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Last box unpacked!


TADA!!!

These are shelves I put up myself  & Freecycle rocking chair!
Spent many hours last night and today unpacking the last box, which has all the photos, documents and writing from my grandmothers.  I bought a drawer unit just for that so needed to put some thought into how to arrange it.  (That unit is on other side of study.  Above are book/journal shelves)  It is now semi-organized.  Things in right drawers but internal organizing needs to happen.  However, going through all the stuff makes me nauseous so it's hard to be super precise when I'm basically trying not to hurl or succumb to dizzy spells.

I just finished doing some writing tonight as well, so I am either heroic or stupid or masochistic.  Or some combination platter of the aforementioned. You decide.

I still have some pictures to hang, small table/shelves etc to sort out, and yet another godforsaken Ikea shelf to purchase...damn them and their cheap and yet somewhat attractive shelving options, damn them to Hell!  So, thinking to change things up, will check out the Brooklyn Ikea and take the water taxi, so I can see the now-swanky Red Hook...and like, when did that happen?

Which reminds me that it's taken me about a year (at the end of this month I will have been back in NYC a full year) to begin to truly appreciate how much has fucking changed since I left in 2003.  I mean I knew stuff was different but I didn't really know how different.  In many ways it's a completely different city.  And yet it's still NYC...which is the genius and weirdness of this place.  It changes, morphs, r/evolves, is in a constant state of becoming-something-else but yet never does.  But does.  The great NYC paradox.

Speaking of which it's just weird to see more skyscrapers going up downtown.  One of which has the horrendous name of the Freedom Tower.  I am sorry everyone in the rest of the world reading this.  I just am sorry.  We are truly moronic and hyperbolic here.  That's all there is to it.  But you knew that already...

However, when I have to suffer through politicians from Both parties at their conventions saying, because they think they have to say: "The United States of America - the Greatest Country in the World" - well, I just die (of embarrassment) a little.  What other country would do this?  I mean aside from probably, say, North Korea or some other 3rd rate dictatorship somewhere without good internet access.  I mean really?  Really??

So, I am having to suffer my decision to stay here.  I did not apply to about three jobs in the UK that I probably should have applied for because I know - all practical evidence to the contrary (like say, oh, health insurance, a real job prospect, etc...) I am supposed to be here where my heart resides whether I fucking like it or not.

I gotta say that in the whole 8 years I lived in London, I never once spontaneously thought (as I do at least once most days in NYC), damn I really love this place.  I abjectly love New York.  Weirdly, madly, deeply.  I have probably said this many times in this blog but it strikes me as odd, especially when I cringe to be American most of the time, that I love this place so so so so much.  New York City that is. Let me be clear.

Add to that my new apartment that I am beginning to love, too, beyond all reason - though it is a kick-ass place.  I feel it growing on my like the continual smell of Dominican food (which is a good thing, because there is an almost constant smell of Dominican food).

Last night I finally used one of my fancy pans to make a stir fry.  I'm typing this post on my amazing desk from Housing Works sitting on my ergonomically correct chair, etc., etc.  Though the lighting situation is still a work in progress....

But there is Space and Light and All my Books and Journals in One Place on One Wall...amazing.

So I'm here for a while.  God/dess knows for how long.  But I dearly hope to finish a draft of the book here.  I am not saying "I will" because every time I say that, something comes along to change that plan, so not tempting fate anymore on that one.

Oh, and I almost forgot, weirdly enough, one year to the day that I saw the Mystery Rabbit in my back garden in London, I saw a rabbit in Inwood Park when walking with my friend Dave...What does it mean???

Here's a picture:


Rabbit is in center of photo - Very well camouflaged but there!


Monday, September 17, 2012

Almost done unpacking!

It's been a while since I wrote because I've basically been unpacking boxes, teaching acting at Hunter and going to very talented people's book parties and readings.  Being inspired to finish my book, actually writing the book (shock) and now down to only one box left unpacked.  That is the research (photos/letters/docs) for the book.  Which I have left to last for two reasons.  One is that it's the thing I look forward to the most and two because once it's unpacked any tiny little excuses I may have had for not going 100% forward with the grandmothers book are done.

I also have some small pictures to hang and some of my weirdly endless small box collection to place.  But that is distinctly in the hand baggage side of things.

There are a seemingly endless list of small things I still need, but keep telling myself it's OK to get them gradually.  But if I don't get speakers for my laptop soon or some kind of sound system I will become sad.  However, since the last time I bought such a thing, everything has changed and I'm kind of stunned by 'choice', especially since I may be the only American left standing who does not own an iPod.  And doesn't want to own one, more to the point.  Went through the 80s without a Walkman, too.  Didn't get a cell phone until 2003 or even have internet at home.  You get the picture.  Irritable Luddite to the end...well, no, not until the end...until I can't get away with it anymore.

The book I heard read last night at KGB Bar that I highly recommended by my high-school friend Dave Maine, who I've written about earlier on this blog (and had not seen since 1985 until Saturday).  It's called 'An Age of Madness' and is published by Red Hen Press.  He's written a book credibly from a 40-something female psychiatrist-on-the-edge POV, no mean feat.  I'm impressed.  Haven't read the whole book yet, but can tell from the first chapter it's going to be kind of great.  So get out there and read it people.

The other book party I went to earlier in the week was for friend Andrew Erdman who has written a biography of a vaudevillian who was as famous in her time as Lady Gaga is in ours.  Another friend tells me she was the inventor of the shimmy-shake.  Is that true?  Well you'll have to read the book: Queen of Vaudeville published by Cornell to read about this astonishing-sounding and looking woman, also known as the "I Don't Care Girl."  In another personal twist, turns out Andrew and I went to the same university for a couple years, so another blast from the mid-80s past...

So, I am inspired, awed and - importantly - happy for these two gentlemen.  In the past, I probably would have felt jealous, diminished or quietly bitter.  Instead, I'm just glad for the success of two good guys writing about amazing women - one non-fiction, one fictional.  Times they be a changing that that's happening.  Congrats and well done, you two!

At Dave's reading, I met up with his brother Stephen and his wife and their friends.  Stephen and his art school friend Mary were my first ever NYC roommates when we lived above the illustrious Chicken and Burger World in what must have been a totally illegal apartment zoned as a business.  We haven't seen each other since then and that was 30 years ago, so it was a true blast from the early 80s past.  Oy.

So, like, we've gotten older.  But, as Dave pointed out, we are still doing what we did then: writing, making theater, making art...which is kind of great.

I'm wondering if/when I may need to wrap up this blog.  Because as I settle into this new place, I begin to feel perhaps 'transition' is ending and instead there is some kind of nesting or dare I say it settling in happening.  Not sure yet how to deal with that.  Could perhaps start another blog with a new title.

Anyway, it's a thought.  This has been an important way of keeping track of changes - and there were So many.  But I'm thinking it may be turning soon into a more private writing process and this might be taking energy from that.  Not sure yet.

But finally: L'Shana Tova to my Jewish friends.  I really love Rosh Hashana.  I love the idea of a New Year in the autumn, when the year does seem to start for me, whether because of school or whatever.  It always seems like the real New Year.  And I love the idea of 10 days of introspection leading to atonement.  I'm not Jewish so am probably getting a lot of this wrong, I hasten to add.  Just what I gather from the outside.  But in NYC the feeling is quite great, a kind of vibe that resonates from a very large community here out to the rest of us shikses and goys.

Now to the final box and the end of the final excuse.  Well, other than the fact it makes me nauseous writing and dizzy and stuff.  Which friend Dave assures me means I'm "onto something."  I really, really hope that's true and I'm not just some dumb masochist who can't write very well, which is what it feels like.

Onward....



Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Happy 100th birthday Mr. Cage

A thank you/remembrance of John Cage who would have been 100 years old today:

Thank you for teaching us to listen and hear music in sound.

Thank you for asking us to notice and appreciate everything around us at All times, including doing the dishes.

Thank you for your relentless cheerfulness and sense of humor in the face of wretched misunderstanding of your work for so long.  Thank you for persisting nonetheless.

Thank you for loving the humble mushroom.

Congratulations for now being canonized...sort of.

You created 4'33" that shook the world...and it's still shaking.

You are my super hero.

***

If you don't know who John Cage is for whatever reason, find out.  You can find numerous talks and concerts now on YouTube and suchlike.

If you want to experience him, take 4'33" of your life and just listen and notice everything around you.  Let it in.  Imagine it is music. Because it is.




Sunday, September 2, 2012

New apartment beginning to feel like home....and teaching at Hunter rocks again

While the study is still filled with boxes and Ivar shelves are only half-way constructed (because books not all yet unpacked...etc.), the living room/bedroom/dining room is shaping up and Ugo the Cat and I are feeling at home...so all else seems possible.

A good friend showed up on Friday and helped me hang pictures, pictures I haven't had up on a wall since London.  She also suggested I start writing my book before study all the way done for 15 minutes a day.  This was genius, because 15 minutes isn't even real time, so it's of course do-able.  And I did it, yesterday.  Tonight, I plan to do the same.  Yesterday, the 15 minutes became 45 and then I had to leave for a meeting.

Another friend said I could contact her before and after I start and stop writing, because the material - about my grandmothers - is so fucking dark.  It's deep sea diving and it's nice to think there will be someone there at the surface aware I just went under.

I love my friends.

I am blessed with a number of unbelievably great friends.  Just a moment of gratitude for them all:

________________________________________ (that is a blank space of gratitude where no words can express what these folks mean to me - you all know who you are)

In terms of the shelves: I thought I had put all my theater books up and then thought the total looked smaller than I remembered, then found more books, so my clever shelving scheme was totally fucked.  I have too many options here: Ivar shelves are like Legos.  All those damn Scandinavian option-givers.  So, while I can make it "however I want it" I am in the Devo (80s band for anyone too young to know who the hell I'm talking about) dilemma of "Freedom of choice is what you've got, freedom from choice is what you want."

So my head almost explodes and I stare catatonic at boxes of half unpacked boxes that friends helped me pack (bless you each and every one...) but so I don't know what's in the them....

But....and this is the most important news: it is moving forward.  Not on MY schedule, but it's moving forward.  And because of my friend Katie's suggestion, I did indeed start writing on September 1, even if on the 'sub-optimal' dining table in a less than ergonomically correct set up because my desk and desk chair are now firmly established in the Room of Chaos.

Had a lovely walk today in the Park getting to know someone new, which was a delight.  I love sharing Inwood Park with folks and it is always a privilege to be allowed into a new person's universe, especially someone with whom I have a lot in common.  Long may it continue.

Ah and lest I forget to mention: started teaching acting again this week at Hunter and LOVE it, again.  I am so happy to see that - so far - it wasn't that last semester was a fluke.  The Hunter student body - at least the folks who decide to take theater in the early evening - are kind of great and it's like teaching a NYC subway car in terms of diversity - even if that subway car may be a little younger and smarter than the average.  So many students have never taken acting in their lives, so are curious and open.  The conversations about Chaikin's 'Present of the Actor' (the core text in my class) are great and if I've done nothing else, I've hipped them to this brilliant theater artist/philosopher who was wildly under-appreciated in life. I'm happy to do whatever I can to keep his good name alive.  That and teaching my own stuff, which is a privilege...Just so, so happy I get to teach this class.

OK, time to do my '15 minutes' of deep sea diving.  Wish me luck.  And let me say again: Inwood is the best.