Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Some Traumas

--On Monday, I went to jury duty, and was selected for questioning by the judge. The experience was not one that I would like to repeat, and not in that ho-hum-jury-duty-is-so-boring-let-me-get-out-of-it kind of way. I'm going to write the entire experience up in the coming week or so. But for now, I'll only say that I've never felt so powerless.

--Then Ed McMahon died. And I felt sad for the whole world of entertainment, even though I don't know anything about Ed McMahon, not really. He hosted the blooper show with Dick Clark that we watched seemingly every Saturday night at my grandparents house, the one with the little cartoon sweeping men.

--Then Farah Fawcett died of cancer. Gail, who sells jam at the Greenmarket, told me about watching Farah's video documentary on television on Thursday night. Gail was shaken by it, and I felt sad for both of them. I felt sad for all the striving, the work, the courage, the hope, and then, turns out, it's not enough.

--Then I had to go to South Williamsburg to deliver some dumb paperwork, and the person I was there to meet got into an argument with someone he worked with, and fired him right on the spot. In front of me. Without apologizing. This was after he said that, "We should hire a temp, pay him nothing, and treat him like dirt because I don't think anyone has the balls these days to sue" and "Mushroom clouds are beautiful, don't you think?"

--Then Michael died. I felt nothing, really, except vague loss. And, of course, the curious tinge of not knowing the whole story, wondering how long it would take for all the details to emerge. But then that's how everything was with Michael--mysterious and unsettling. Even his music, the extraordinary transcendence of those eternal songs, seem to be made out of genius, soul and light.

--Last night, I took to watching great Tony, Emmy, and Oscar acceptance speeches on YouTube until 2:30 in the morning. Then I cried, and felt happy.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Letter from Greece, Part 2 of 10

Day One: Departure, New York City

The outbound flight is overnight, just over eight hours—we will arrive at about nine o’clock in the morning. I take one Ambien before the dinner service. I’ve loaded my iPod with Woody Allen movies, and I stuff Vestal McIntyre’s new novel down into the seat pocket in front of me, plus three New Yorkers that I’ve let pile up. Kip gathers the small pillows and the blue and yellow blanket sealed in a plastic bag, and fixes himself against the window, soon asleep. The in-flight television has nine channels, each with a series of Greek television shows, or cheap copies of popular game shows, all of them seem to feature graying male singers, in tuxedos with slick-looking hair—Frank Sinatra meets Zorba the Greek crossed with Barry Manilow. The women in the TV audience are going wild. I can’t tell if the performances are from this year, or from thirty years ago. Old guys like this could never be pop stars in America.

Sleep never comes.

But I’m used to that.

I read, I watch the movies on the iPod, I stare into the blank screen. Hours pass. I drink a tiny, airplane food-sized bottle of red wine, remarkably good—I consider waking Kip so he can taste it. The man sitting in front of me has bad circulation, or restless leg syndrome, or unassailable boredom, and he takes to standing in the aisle for long periods of time, checking his pockets obsessively. For something he brought? For something he forgot? On the screen at the front of the cabin there’s a map of the world, shifting from far away to closer distances, following our tiny tin tube as it crosses the Atlantic, over the northern border of Spain, over the heel of Italy, and eventually to Athens.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Letter from Greece, Part 1 of 10

This travelogue from my trip to Greece is not structured chronologically. So this, Day Three, is actually the beginning. I'll post the rest of the parts in the coming weeks.

Day Three: Temple of Poseidon, Cape Sounion

The American woman stands near the southwest corner of the temple, waiting for her husband to steady the video camera. She is blonde—dyed and teased into a helmet—big shiny nails, maybe seventy, probably retired, probably used to taking these sorts of vacations, where you ride a big modern bus through old, crumbling towns in Europe. “This is the place where, uh, honey, what is it called?” She clears her throat. Her husband is wearing a loose Hawaiian-print shirt, and white socks pulled up to his knees. “The Temple of Poseidon,” he says, loudly. “Right, okay, I’m ready.” she says. He pans the camera behind her, over the gleaming white columns, across the base of the temple, and back.

She begins: “Here we are at the Temple of Poseidon. The ancient Greeks would come here to worship him, and to honor him, and to make sacrifices of lambs or other animals, maybe burn something and send the smoke into the air, whatever else they wanted to do.” “But never as tourists,” she continues, “the ancients only came for worship. Oh, and this, where we are, is the southernmost point of mainland Europe.” These are all things the tour guide told us.

The wide Aegean spreads out behind me, dark, turning in the distance to a thin grey haze which blurs the details of the islands, the waves, the horizon, cut by thin trails left from passing ships. I turn back, still listening, watching the Italian tourists take pictures in pairs and foursomes, changing groupings, trading cameras. “But there are no ghosts here anymore. You can feel the lack of energy, and the long history of the energy. They were here once, they were very many, but their business has finished.” A grouse standing on the corner of the temple begins its rough, guttural call. She smiles, glowing, as if candlelit from within. “Now,” she says, “they’re all gone.”

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Indigo Girls at Summerstage

On Tuesday night, I went with friends to Central Park's Summerstage to see the Indigo Girls. Their record "Hammer and a Nail" was the first CD that I bought, when CDs still came in long cardboard boxes, after having seen them play a few songs on a special "songwriter's" episode of Austin City Limits. They have grown into astute, focused songwriters, and the new record, released independently last March, is one of their best. It was a wonderful show.

I am seriously dumbfounded by Amy & Emliy's sheer lack of pretension and cynicism. So often, after their nearly twenty-five years playing music together, bands can't seem to figure it out, they break-up, they get too interested in things they're not good at, or they let the whole fame/success/riches/fandom thing turn them into caricatures. The Indigo Girls have simply avoided all of this, and remained, perhaps by sheer force of their personalities alone, open, hopeful and, oh yeah, extremely adept guitar players.

For those of you interested, the setlist:
-Love of Our Lives
-Sugar Tongue
-Fill It Up Again
-Power of Two
-Driver Education
-What Are You Like
-Pendulum Swinger
-Fleet of Hope
-Faye Tucker
-Ghost of the Gang
-Get Out the Map
-Shame on You
-Digging for Your Dream
-Romeo & Juliet
-I'll Change
-Kid Fears (with Matt Nathanson)
-Closer to Fine (with Matt Nathanson)
-Prince of Darkness
-Second Time Around

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Updates, in Brief

--Kip is making his famous Lemon Basil Orzo for dinner.

--We saw the movie "Moon," which was wonderful, except for the trashy radio transmission at the end, which really ruined the whole thing for me.

--I miss the characters from my second novel, which I've not looked at since Yield started moving toward publication. I should just read the sections again, just to feel a sense of them.

--Off to Tennessee for the 4th of July, which my mother now calls "my christmas," since it is the only time of the year when our whole family is together.

--We saw "9 to 5" the musical on Tuesday night. It was pretty bad, which is a shame, because the music is good, and the performances are great. The show is infected with Broadway dancing, do you know what I mean? Honestly, the opening imagery is so tacky and badly imagined that from about 8 seconds into it, I thought: "This is going to be horrible." It was still entertaining. God Bless the incredible talent that is Alison Janney.

--I ran into Ms. T at the market on Saturday, and we had a nice chat. It was nice to see her. She's off to "do another movie for Tyler," and then on an on.

--We met Michael Hicks at the Lavish Lounge last night. Lovely to see him. The go-go boy on the bar was nice to watch.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

My Neighborhood, Circa 1991

I was inspired by my friend Ariel to make a personal Google map. I recommend changing it to the "satellite view" so you can get a sense of the ground better, the distances and the color.

Click here to view the map and see the points of interest.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Trunk, Vol 1: Hair

A short story of mine, "Activate Profile" is included in this lovely new art book from Australia.

About the book:
Trunk Volume One: Hair
edited by Suzanne Boccalatte & Meredith Jones.

This strange anthology of writing and art explores the cultural, historical, religious and social aspects of the evolutionary ambiguous outgrowth of protein known as hair.

About the series:
Trunk books will be a series of small, corporeal, personal, and sensual books. They are intended to be beautiful, coveted objects filled with fascinating content, much like an old trunk in an attic. These collectable volumes will be consumable and engrossing as a whole, yet filled with short pieces so that each book can also be flipped through or dipped into at random.

Buy the book here.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Some Angst

New York has been lovely of late. I've been doing a lot of nothing since we got back from Greece, taking my time before delving back into the novel for a few weeks (months? days? overnights?) of work to make it ready for publication. And, after that, of course, comes the waiting for it to appear on shelves. (Or, in remaindered boxes at the back of the store, which I have considered.)

I am both excited and anxious about re-entering it. Can I access that emotional place, that language, the energy that made the book what it is? This is the difference between inspiration and work, I keep thinking. Writing is so mysterious that I think we are often fearful that the magic won't take. It takes so much out of you, that it becomes to sacred. Of course, the big secret is that there is no magic, and nothing is sacred. And yet...

This business of art-making still eludes me. I realize more and more as I get older, that I am purely an instinctual writer. (Are there other kinds? Puzzle-y kinds? Character-y kinds?) I don't start with plots, or characters, or even "ideas." What always emerges first, are voices, and even more enigmatic forces, which I can only describe as "The Feelies." It's kind of like this: Say you are on a front porch somewhere, and miles away, the wind starts blowing, but you can feel it, even though it's not on you. You just know it. You just have to trust yourself more than you trust anything else. The wind will eventually reach you. Or something like that.

I can't put a finger on that distant knowledge-thing that creativity feels like. And, I guess the most ridiculous part is that I feel simultaneously compelled to understand it, (and to write about it in unclear metaphors about wind and porches) and also so completely indifferent to it.

Jean Gray, where are you to explain all this?