Welcome to my blog..


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

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

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

As of September 2013 I started teaching writing (composition and rhetoric) as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. So blessed for the opportunity and hope to find a more permanent job doing same.

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

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

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

Recently, I started a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. I will be blogging there, too, now.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Love saves the day

That was the name of a store in the East Village that doesn't exist anymore...but love does save the day. This day.

FINALLY, gay marriage is legal. I argued - alone - in my psychology class in 1979 (when I was 16) that being gay was not a mental illness. That was still up for debate then. I saw many people I loved and grew up with die of AIDs, friends agonize over coming out and lose their families when they did, get harassed and bullied, all sorts of horrible things. Most of my classmates assumed I was a lesbian after that day. My response to that "accusation" was: I wish. That shut them up (and was true).

The Conservative Supreme Court just told the rest of the country to get over it. ACT-UP's wonderful chant from the 1980s "We're here! We're queer! Get over it!" becoming manifest in Anthony Kennedy's decision that says the petitioners ask for the same right to love as everyone else and, so movingly, "Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization's oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.....It is so ordered."

We get so much wrong in this country, a moment like this when a Conservative Supreme Court gets it so right is worth noting.

ALSO, in no small part due to the extraordinary actions of the families of the Charleston massacre - their acts of love in the face of hate - which is more than I could Ever do - the Confederate flag, which represents slavery and that is all, is FINALLY - after 150 years and a slaughter that included a state senator in a church - coming down all over the South. Yes, it is time, it is PAST time to let it go and understand that while the North is not, was not, and never will be free of racism and there were business interests in the Civil War, as with all wars, this symbol must go. It's as offensive to African-Americans as the Swastika is to Jewish people (and indeed Catholics and gay people).

(If you want to see Obama's eulogy for State Senator Rev. Clementa Pinckney - and you really should if you wonder where soul of America is and why we haven't just turned into a country of babbling idiots - you can go to whitehouse.gov)

Are we changing as a people? I don't know. The demographics are shifting and the country I was born in that was 80% white is no more and that is a GOOD thing. Maybe we can be what we say we are finally - a country for everyone.

I'm also happy the Supreme Court upheld health care subsidies, because without Obamacare, I am without health insurance again, as I was for over 20 years. And fair housing access, too.

I am recovering from the final (I hope) round of root canal work so apologize in advance if this is a somewhat incoherent post. But I wanted to say something.

Finally, I want to thank all my gay friends from the 1970s and 80s and 90s who struggled to come out, fought for everyone's rights, died of AIDS, didn't die of AIDS, loved me and each other, had pride even when that meant being harassed, bullied or attacked and generally paved the way for today by LOVING one another against ALL ODDS.

You have made this country a better place. This is for you. Unfortunately, many of you are not here to see this, but I have faith you know.

Some names: Derek, Oskar, Dennis, Bob, Beau, Bobby, Paul....So many amazing, beautiful men that died too young that were so important to me as a teenager and as a young woman. I love you so.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Of birthdays, readings and rituals...

Amazing how every year, you have a birthday. No getting around it.

This will be the fourth time I write about it on this blog, the first time was 2011. Let's review.

In 2011, I was beginning what would turn into a final separation from my then-husband. It was a painful time. I spent the day with my dear friend Julie at a spa in Montauk, getting massages and such. A beautiful day with one of my best friends, but with sad undertones.

In 2012, I was sitting in my beloved step-father Tom's ICU room. He would die a few days later. More fun times. This year, for some reason, that time came back quite vividly yesterday and I cried and cried. I didn't cry that much at the time because my mother's suffering was quite acute and his biological children were present. I shelved my direct pain for the most part (except one moment at memorial service) in order to be present for others. That is OK. But now, it's coming out. That is OK, too.

In 2013, I turned 50 and we spent the time in what had been a family cottage on Peaks Island, Maine where I spent time during the summer from 1971-1982. I was with John whom I had met a few months prior, so that was a much more joyful time, though I was aware it was also the anniversary of Tom's death, so soon after, there was a lot of sadness - especially when my mother arrived the next day. Staying at the cottage was also bittersweet, because it was lovely to return, but sad to know the cottage was no longer in the family. However, overall a gorgeous time. Some of Jani's ashes are buried there, BTW, and I write about the cottage a lot in the book, because she and I spent her last summer together there in 1979.

Last year, 2014, John had just arrived from Canada, with his Green Card finally approved. That was such a relief that we did nothing for my birthday other than hang out together and mostly sleep. That was the right thing to do then because we were so exhausted from the strain of all that and were just relieved to finally be 'allowed' to be together.

This year, I thought: wow, OK, it's time for a group celebration! I thought going to the Hayden Planetarium would be fun and give much-needed perspective upon turning 52 and not being able to pretend I'm young anymore. While I'm not old, I'm not young either. I still do yoga and walk and enjoy myself, but being at Vermont Studio Center this past May, surrounded by people in general much younger than me, it was clear. I'm not young anymore. So, cosmic perspective would be a good thing.

But, then when I called they told me the Planetarium is closed today. Drat!

On the other hand, I also booked a table at a restaurant for a some friends and me and that is happening! So, while I will not be able to be aided in consoling myself that we are all made of stardust so therefore 52, so what, I will have the day to commune with friends and my beloved and just enjoy the fact of community and the greatest consolation of growing older: good friends, especially friends that span one's life. While many of my friends live elsewhere, in fact are dotted all over the globe, there will be a nice group of folks, new and old friends, celebrating another human's next year on the planet. So hooray for that!

Speak of celebrations, I had the great privilege of witnessing a friend's adult Bat Mitzvah on Saturday. I've never seen anyone's Bat Mitzvah, so can't compare but this was truly special. I am not Jewish but at times like this, really wish I was. The sense of community and of redemption through that community is so palpable and human and Joyful. There were 18 celebrants, all of whom spoke of their spiritual journey through the year to this place and how it linked to some part of the (reform) ceremony. Then there was lots of singing and chanting in Hebrew (translated in prayer book, so I had some clue what was happening).

There was a time when everyone who had lost someone throughout the year - or who had lost someone at that time of year - could stand up and say their name. I so wanted to stand up and say Tom's name, but of course am not part of the congregation so did not. However, I was deeply moved by how people are remembered in this way.

Speaking of memorials....I read some of this blog, Dick and Jani, and a piece I wrote for a gathering at The Present Company Theatorium the week after 9/11/01, at Bruce's Garden last Wednesday. Bruce's Garden is named after the son of the man who created the garden, because his son died in the attack as a first responder. So, the feeling of memorial was in the air in that beautiful place as well. Below are two pictures from the reading, which went very well. Dick and Jani are gaining voice and moving out into the world, the blog was well-received, and it was good to remember what we all shared fourteen years ago. One man said, of the 9/11 piece (which you can read here: No Words - Prentice-Hall Pearson) that it reminded him of how everyone was forced to have an opinion right away, while we were all still in shock. That comment was a huge compliment, because that was my main slow-burning rage at the time: that an event in which thousands of human beings died was immediately turned into a Symbol by people of all political stripes and no one took even a moment's breath to take in the reality of it. That experience changed my artistic practice. I now only am interested in any methods that get me closer to reality, however experimental or not, whether with writing or performance. I am convinced, have been since then, that all of our delusions about where, who, what we are are what cause us suffering. I do not - by the way - harbor the illusion that I know reality. I understand it's a constant struggle and I can be as deluded as the next person. It's a search, that is all. Just because it's impossible to do perfectly, does not exempt us from trying.

One of my favorite recent books is David Shields' Reality Hunger; this fall semester at Fordham I will be teaching a class based on it. I do not obviously mean 'reality' as in 'reality shows', which are the biggest fictions ever. Instead, as Shields proposes in his manifesto, through his own and others' words, it's through levels of fictionalization that reality shows through, but fictions that announce themselves as such. Work that allows the seams to show. The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick and Jani is clearly in this camp. As is all my theater work.

(In case you're keeping score, I'm still editing the book and it's slow as molasses now that I'm back in NYC - in part because the past week and a half included three - count 'em - three root canal surgeries and I couldn't do a damn thing. I think hope pray that is done for now...editing will commence again soon.)

OK, gonna go enjoy my birthday now... and here's some reading pictures:

Geoff Wisner and me answering questions after we both read (Bruce's Garden) - June 10

Q&A in Bruce's Garden, Isham Park (Inwood, NYC) - photo by John Barclay-Morton