Friday, December 18, 2009

Inside Room

Two experiences today made me think about the thing then 23 year-old Carson McCullers deemed the 'inside room.' In The Heart is a Lonely Hunter one of the characters, Mick, struggles to keep her fantasies, her visions, her vivid inner life going as she gets older. At 14 she takes a job at the Woolworth and the music she used to hear is replaced by this incessant "Miss" "Miss"- hissing. The novel is beautiful and tragic, the deaf and mute man, Mr. Singer, is a great friend to her-- but his separation of his true love eventually kills him. In all of his silence he is a keen observer and doesn't understand how these humans can possibly open and close their mouths so much. Or how they can be 'so busy.'

"School and the family and things that happened every day were in the outside room. Foreign countries and plans and music were in the inside room."


"But now no music was in her mind. That was a funny thing. It was like she was shut out from the inside room. Sometimes a quick little tune would come and go-- but she never went into the inside room like she used to. It was like she was too tense. Or maybe the store took too much of her energy and time. Woolworth's wasn't the same as school. When she used to come home from school she felt good and ready to start working on the music. But now she was always tired. At home she just ate supper and slept and then ate breakfast and went off to the store again. A song she had started in her private notebook two months before was still not finished. And she wanted to stay in the inside room but she didn't know how. It was like the inside room was locked somewhere away from her. A very hard thing to understand."

I went to see the adaptation of McCullers' novel at New York Theater Workshop tonight, the text was adapted by Rebecca Gilman, it was directed by Doug Hughes, and the cast and creative team can be found here. I didn't love the production, although moments were sumptuous, but some of the ideas obviously resonated.

The other piece that had me thinking about these ideas this morning was Judith Warner's final Opinionator column for the Times. It is accessible here, and here's a bit I particularly liked.

“’How can I know what I think until I read what I write?” the former Times columnist James Reston — quoted by Quindlen in her final “Life in the 30s” column, in December 1988 — once wrote.

Often, writing here, I didn’t know fully what I felt — about things going on in my own life — until I read what I’d written. And very often I didn’t understand what I’d written until I heard it coming back at me.

The back-and-forth of our conversations changed me."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

this is my 151st post!

I'm going to see this band tonight at Hotel Cafe, one of my all-tine favorite venues, anywhere. (It happens to be in LA.)
I think this is a pretty great song, and I enjoy this video-- especially how homemade it feels.

I flew Virgin America to get here yesterday and I've got to say, best airline ever. At least for now. I love the low, blue LED disco-lighting and the free selection of great music videos. Here's one I watched that's super-fun. And, since it's almost the end of the year and the requisite "year of __x__" statements and 'best of' lists aren't too far off, I think I can say even though the song really came out at the end of 2008, 2009 seems to have been a pretty spectacular year for Ms. Sasha Fierce and looking back in two or three decades I hope we all remember 2009 as the year of "Single Ladies."

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Killian's Red

I'm exhausted and over-extended at the moment-- I literally drove 11 hours in a 28-hour period this weekend, and the bookends to the time in Maine were not R&R, but rehearsals, rehearsals, and more rehearsals. I'm directing two shows that open next week and doing a lot of tutoring since it's the 'busy season' for college applications... but one day last week I was reading this story on the train and I have been thinking about it ever since. It grabbed my heart and made tears stream down my face even as I walked along 42nd street during rush hour with my eyes glued to the page.
It's super-inspiring and makes me think about how even when I feel like I'm having a hard day or things aren't going well in some small way-- I am very, very blessed. My job is to live this life to its fullest and to make the most of myself; and experience and share joy with the people I love. And hopefully, through my work, share some magic with people I don't know personally too.

Read this amazing story.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

great day

My mom is visiting for the weekend and we had the most wonderful fall day. Sometimes you need to have an excuse to play host(ess) to be reminded of how truly spectacular this city is.

These pictures are from a different day I walked the HighLine (my first time, this past August), but the feeling of the day was similar.

Today had Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Union Square Farmers Market, yummy homemade fresh pasta dinner, Big Dance Theater's Comme Toujours Here I Stand at The Kitchen, a nighttime stroll along the HighLine and back to my nest via the Meatpacking District and the West Village. Did you notice I love neighborhoods?... and walking through them?!
It's a warm-ish fall evening now and everyone is out. Lots of dresses and skirts and bare arms as we all cling fast to the waning warmth and the leaves fall at our feet.

Monday, September 14, 2009

the day at hand

It is so good to get away—especially somewhere so different. I spent the past week in Fort Worth, Texas and I really loved it. I was there directing Richard Greenberg’s Three Days of Rain for Amphibian Stage at the lovely Sanders Theater. The show runs through September 20th—and I’m really, really proud of it. The actors’ and designers’ work is inspired and truthful, and the whole Amphibian team are a bunch of amazingly hard-working, brilliant and artistic people.
I also got to go to two museums in the past couple days as my schedule opened up-- The Modern and The Kimbell—and those experiences added a hefty serving of joy and inspiration to my already-awesome time here. I was moved by the works of Gerhard Richter, Nicholas Nixon, Philip Haas, Anselm Keifer and Francis Bacon that I saw, but my favorite was the exhibition of William Kentridge’s work at the Modern—and his process of charcoal drawing, erasure and stop-motion animation is a bit of an exploration of many similar themes as the play I was working on… this quote from him is more eloquent than I.
“The final state of each drawing becomes a record of this painstaking process of erasure and addition—a palimpsest evocative of the emotional tension between forgetting and remembering. The making of each film was a rediscovery of what each film was. A first image, phrase or idea would justify itself in the unfolding of images, prases, and ideas spawned by the work as it progressed. The imperfect erasures of the successive stages of each drawing become a record of the progress of an idea and the passage of time. The smudges of erasure thicken in the film, but they also serve as a record of the days and months spent making the film—a record in slow-motion.”
It was especially resonant because I have vivid recollections of going to see the 2000 exhibition of his work at the New Museum in NY. The drawings and films had a profound impact on me, for their artistry, and also for his subtle but potent scrutiny of socio-political events close to him; namely, apartheid in his home of South Africa.
For me making a play is much like building a relationship with a person or with a work of art or literature. It takes some time to connect, there may be false-starts, missed connections and so on, but gradually, a bond is forged and intimacy follows. Something grows where once there was nothing. For a time it is all-consuming and then, often too quickly, it is over. The thing, the convergence exists only in memory. As the Walker character describes in Three Days of Rain, it is still there. “Old things scraped away to reveal older things, like a palimpsest, or pentimento.” I do not type the words without hearing Caleb Scott (the actor from my production) saying them.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

its really good when it feels like the world is converging

so, in recent personal news: I guess I moved back to NY. I am kind of happy, kind of sad. I really love LA but fortunately I really love NY too. For now, this is where it's at. I love my work and I am here to make it happen.

Tonight I went to see Fuerza Bruta.
I was traveling solo which was a little self-conscious-making at first.
I felt like I had wandered into a rave only everyone was sort of old and speaking German and Portuguese. The haze was steady and the beat was pounding as we stood in an area marked with a circle of tape on the floor. Over the course of the next hour I watched a Bond-type dfigure bound forward on a giant treadmill pushing through heavy rain, strong winds, a door, styrofoam crates and a wall of boxes. I watched two Amazonian women defy Newton's laws and chase each other on gorgeous giant mylar-- they ran at an angle very wanting for V8. There bodies were perpendicular to all of us standing on the ground and they were flying and tumbling and leaping across mylar that moved like sheets of rain in a hurricane, their bodies tiny at 60 feet high. A gaggle of mermaid-like beauties in gauzy dresses ran, dove, stretched and pounded on a football-size sheet of heavy-duty plastic filled with varying-degrees of water. The surface started high above us and floated down to just above our heads. Putting fingers to the surface, I could feel the dancers heat if not their wetness. In another section the entire cast did a sort of cross between Capoeira and aggressively-athletic Irish step dancing in unison while deconstructing a prototypical 'house' set. My favorite part was at the end though. I thought I had seen and felt it all. The gunshots and bloody shirt early on made me think of death, the fetal-like women encircling each other in womb-like water had made me think of birth.
The music got louder and louder and the lights and rain and smoke machines were dancing and everyone there joined in. All the Brazilian girls and German children ran towards the center and the rain started to pick up. Soon we were all drenched and sopping and sloshing to the music. I didn't feel alone at all anymore. Everyone seemed young and fun and beautiful.

Plus-- my friend Ryan Templeton's friend Jon Moris who I'd hung out with in LA was in the show and when I went to say hi one of my favorite LA people-- choreographer and designer extraordinnaire Ryan Heffington was there too. I saw friends, I danced with strangers; there was great SPECTACLE and I felt some real emotion. Brute force indeed.
All in all, good night.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

goodbye horses

this is a letter by a bandleader to his friends & fans about the loss of one of his music heroes. I have been thinking about my artistic heroes so much lately. Especially how important it is to have heroes/mentors whether you talk to them in real-life or just in your own head-- especially in this sort of gypsy life where there is so much change constantly. I miss Merce and Pina. And I really loved this song too.

We found out that William Garvey the man who wrote "Goodbye Horses"
(originally performed by Q. Lazzarus) died last night.

I'm so fucking sad. I'd heard the rumor from David Hawes from Catherine Wheel who was hanging out with us. So I googled it this morning and I found the death notice online and now I can't help but be so sad about it. Something about those words: "death notice."

He wrote a beautiful song. I understand why he wrote it. I know it in and out. Those enigmatic lyrics, the longing of it, the sadness. We've played it so much, I feel like it has become part of our lives.

He wrote me an e-mail a few weeks ago to tell me that I'd been singing the lyrics wrong. He'd watched a bunch of YouTube clips of us playing it and said that the line at the ends was "flying over you" not "lying
over you." He was annoyed. I wrote him back, apologized for the mistake (a few lyrics websites have it listed as "lying" and I honestly thought that's what it sounded like) and told him I would correct the mistake, that I admired him and thought it was a wonderful piece of music.

He perked right up with a few more e-mails and told me he loved our version and that we should record it. He told me that he really liked our band and then talked about how he'd spent a long time trying to
create a new sound for music. I didn't quite understand what he meant, but then I didn't care. It was just great to have this interaction with him. To be part of his world, to feel as if we were part of the same
world. Like we were both artists and we shared this song in common. It was literally the first time I'd ever felt this way.

And I love his song. I love playing it. The big break, the odd notes hanging in the air at the beginning, the crescendo at the end. We were going to ask him to join us onstage on our fall tour to play the song.

So he died on Monday and I found out last night and I read the Death Notice this morning and I can't help but tear up.

Touring is madness and you lose touch with reality. We've been on the road for over a year now and the days keep getting more and more surreal. After awhile, you start to feel like you're living in a dream-world. Like the people you meet are just characters in some kind of waking dream. It becomes a blur. There's a lot of drinking and a lot of loud music, loud crowds, crazy nights, quiet mornings, endless flights and meet-and-greets and phone calls home. And of course, music. The only part of it that feels meaningful. And William has been part of that for a long time now since we've been covering the song every night. So I feel like I've lived with him, or his creation, for a long time, here in this dream world.

I read somewhere what he intended the meaning of the lyrics to be: that in Eastern philosophy, horses are symbolic of the 5 senses. They represent the things that keep you tied to your physical existence. And when you achieve a higher level of consciousness, when you transcend your physical state, you leave the horses behind. You are "flying over" them. So the song is about someone who is so affected by loss that they decide to give up on the things that keep them tied to this world.

I know almost nothing else about him. I guess there's some sort of mundane statement to be made here about the power of music to connect people. But it doesn't feel like that. It feels like he's here, watching me write this. Like he'll be there tonight when we play it at our show. Like I know him because I know his song. And I'm so sad he died because I was so grateful that he lived.

-Mikel Jollett

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

minimal spectacle

One moment from the past few days that I must share:
Ka-Ge, a director/choreographer coming to the Lab from Thailand led a small Butoh workshop a few days ago and it has been the afterimage on my eyelids when I close them since. He is a great teacher but he also has a gift for movement that has the dual effect of moving you to stock-still awe, AND he makes it look so magical-- of course you want to try it.
The video below is not so similar to what we were doing but it does give a sense. Many of the videos on youtube can be watched but not embedded. I found the Sankai Juku ones especially compelling. If you are interested there is a lot of material online-- one thing that is important to know though is that this a 'modern' form. It was created post-WWII and very much in response to the physical and emotional pain, loss and decay Japan was suffering. It is sometimes called the 'Dance of Darkness.'
Perhaps because Ka-Ge is a natural comedian he led us to dark somber places but also shaped scenarios where we all couldn't stop laughing. In one exercise a group of six of us were 'high-so' (high-society) and at a cocktail party. Very slowly, with minimal movement over a short span of music (he was playing the theme song to The Godfather no less) we moved into a position for a group portrait. Over a count of ten each we moved as one into the zenith-point of three expressions--happiness/laughter --> anger --> sadness. Then over another ten count we morphed into dancing-- where at most you could move maybe A finger or A shoulder. It was surprisingly funny.
In another exercise we took about ten minutes or so to walk across the floor, he would call out sort of visual/environmental cues, and remind us that the wind was moving through our hair, the we could feel the sunlight on our faces, that while we were moving forward there was also a strong force, a wind, the weight of the past, pulling us back. We attempted to make manifest all of these environmental elements in every physical movement. As we got near to the other side he said we were almost at the ocean, we could see it, we had almost arrived. Then, a drop of rain fell on us. Soon, more drops, and eventually, the sky opened up and poured down. He told us we were made of salt, and the rain was making us weak, like a melting candle, we were dripping down, crumbling. The rain got less but we were already crumbled on the ground; our forms gone. The sun was shining again but we were cracking in the sun now. We were just heaps of salt drying up on the ground.
The craziest thing about this was I really had a sensory experience of being an old woman. Very very old. I felt like myself in my body, but my body was different, it didn't listen to me, it didn't respond the way I asked it to. I felt very weak and when I looked down I saw all the wrinkles and folds and all of the thoughts from my life starting passing over me. Not just the life I have led up to now either-- but I felt like I could see the future. And I know this sounds crazy, but I felt like I could see and feel my moment of expiration. My own death. It was very strange and surreal. And powerful.
I was always afraid I was going to die when I was young (especially because of some health problems I had when I was little, and also, not liking airplanes etc.) but if this flash-forward was true-- I will die a natural death, as a very, very old woman.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


That is not a metaphor. It is crashing so loudly and so brightly, it feels very near.
I am such a lucky girl this week and I have so much to process.
It was the first week of the Lincoln Center Director's Lab, the opening of One Child Born: The Music of Laura Nyro by Kate Ferber and Louis Greenstein, (that I am directing), and casting is set for Three Days of Rain (also directing, goes up in Texas in September). I also got to see my mom and my cousin Katie.
The Lab is a recipe for incredulity. This week alone we talked with:

Kate Whoriskey
Declan Donellan
Lev Dodin
Winter Miller
& Mark Bennett and numerous musical-theater peeps (composer, lyricists, etc.)

and did:
a 3-day 'moment workshop' with Andy Paris (Tectonic Theater Project)
some strenuous physical work with a Grotowski practitioner
movement work (and psycho-drama!) evoking MAAFA (or, Middle Passage) with Jesse Wooden, Jr. and his company Meyerhold's Biomechanics with a theater company that uses his principles and etudes in the conception and execution of their work

I missed Ntozake Shange's talk because of my callbacks... but I doubt if I would have been capable of taking in and synthesizing much more stimulation.

All this movement work and discussing it in terms of its groundbreaking-ness has me feeling very appreciative of my coming to theater through dance, and slightly anti-hero-worshipful of some of the people who gave existing quantities clever, intellectual names. Many of the big ideas are intrinsic for dancers/choreographers-- and it is fascinating to me how many of my directing peers in the Lab seem to revere artists like Pina Bausch-- while going about their craft in a completely different way. I used to talk with my friend Sam about how being a choreographer is quite like being a director, only it is harder-- because you are also the playwright. I don't think he agreed with that. But then, at that point I was a choreographer and he was a director and we are so often protective of that thing we do, aren't we?

I walked around DUMBO this afternoon too and had to keep pushing the bitter feelings down and away. This place that has had such a formative effect on me-- and I once thought I was making an impact on it-- has no memory of me. No trace. There's a bigger and better flea market than any DUMBO Bazaar. The first three homes of my fledling Nest are alive and well and seem to be carrying on respectable and legitimate cultural commerce. Then again, the beer still tastes good and the view is still magnificent; for now anyway.
The girl who is living in the apartment I lived in hung a piece of fabric over the glass door to the balcony just like I did. There's a problem there of too much light coming in all at once in the morning and almost blinding you.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

moving circles

I went to see Les Ephemeres by Ariane Mnouchkine and Theatre du Soleil at the Armory as part of the Lincoln Center Festival tonight. The only other time I saw this company was at their home, the Cartoucherie, outside Paris, in June 2000. So much has happened since then. That show, Tambours sur la Digue, really changed my life-- and I'm not exaggerating.
As my friend Rob was saying yesterday, you can't judge what other people decide is their 'big stuff.' What they get worked up about, what pain they struggle with. It is all relative. And for me-- Theatre du Soleil and that show in particular was a PRETTY BIG DEAL.
The show tonight was a series of short vignettes, MANY vignettes-- that added up to an epic almost 3 1/2 hours. And that was only Part 1. The company has endeavored to bring a bit of the circus-barn feel to the Upper East Side and the audience was seated on bench seating with small cushions and not-deep backs on pretty steep risers. The audience faced each other and the action was played in a playing space with pewter silk fabric billowing at either end whenever a platform was wheeled on. The space was very long and the depth was further exploited when scenes would continue on in a sense, even as they were disappearing into the distance. A young adulterous mother sitting at a table with a single candle burning on Christmas Eve. A transexual woman and and a little girl watching an old movie right after blowing out the lights on the birthday cake. That sort of thing.
The NY Times did a bang-up job of describing the show and I won't make any attempt to do better. What I will say is what it left me with.
Mnouchkine is so genius at marrying an seemingly impossibly abstract idea/theme/issue to a visual/objective manifestation-- and the way this show was played was genius. This show is about the ephemerality of everything, of youth, of love, of family, of life... and so it of course is about memory. Each of the scenes were played on platforms on wheels-- most of them round, and one to three company members moved like serpentine gondoliers surreptitious manipulating them through the space. The 'plates' were always 'spinning.' Like a memory that swirls through your mind, as one element or person shifts into the foreground and then another, as your point of view invariably changes over time... and then inevitably, it all recedes. Spinning away into darkness.
Also, Mnouchkine is a genius at choosing both the extraordinary and the mundane. The extraordinary in the ordinary.
My boyfriend Alex and I had moments of impatience-- he thinks anything really profound can be said in 90 minutes... or 80 even... but that doesn't account for the transfixing meditation factor. And there was definitely a value-add as the piece played on. Storylines wove through each other and I felt like I was reading the Westing game all over again as I tried to put the puzzle pieces together.
In the final moment as the company took apart the circle where the last scene had taken place, and the theatrical lights turned to flashlights which gave way to tiny lights illuminating only the mass of people across the playing space, in near-darkness, in silhouette, I thought of our own ephemerality. How one day, not too long from now-- all the people in this theater will be gone, the moments of their lives spinning away into the darkness.
And the music swelled. And a few tears welled up. And I didn't want any of it to end.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

art I recommend

I am so in love with art, and the brave, hardworking souls who make it.

Two pieces I saw in the last few days have totally floored me.
Now maybe I am coming really late to this party but Up was my first Pixar film. Truth be told, probably one of only a handful of animated movies I've ever seen. I don't know if they are all this good. But this one is. SO BRILLIANT and beautiful and heartbreaking. I cried. Twice. And I smiled a lot. And guffawed a couple of times too.

The other piece, the Broadway musical Next to Normal gave me a similar sensation. I stood in the rush ticket line this morning, which of course only adds to the experience-- should a person be lucky enough to get in. [Or you can get there at 5am, as many people did, mothers and daughters and young Hugh Jackmans with their folding chairs and snacks and theater trivia games.] I listened to so many repeat offenders, young and old people who love this show and are so empowered by it. People were trading lots of stories, how mental illness or the loss of a child had touched their lives personally. Then, tonight, I sat smack in the center of the front row and watched a bunch of sickly talented superstars sing and move and talk in really gut-wrenching, visually-satisfying, emotionally-potent ways. I am so amazed at the boldness of this show-- dealing with this very real, little-talked about subject matter. And it reminds me of how I felt when I saw Rent, in 1997.
And it also reminds me that theater (insert: 'that I like') doesn't always have to cool, or even try to be cool. It will serve me to remember that when people make something that is true and beautiful and depressing and sincere and (seemingly) hopelessly un-commercial it is VERY cool. It is very cool to feel things deeply. Especially in live performance. Sometimes it's easier to feel things more in movies, that distancing effect, (watching movies on airplanes even more so!)-- but it's not impossible to be completely transported by live theater. It's hard, but worth the try I guess.
In the front row next to me tonight two college-age girls held hands as they shook with tears streaming down their faces. Then after the show, they both said how much better they felt and how much people were talking about 'stuff-- because of the show.'
Talking about 'stuff' ... and also empowered and seriously entertained.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

gut in the best sense of the word

Spring. Change. Seedlings into blossoms with a few puddles along the way.
I walked out of my cousin's oasis with lightness in my step, along Lorimer Street, past the Sette Pani bakery that smells like Italian cookie heaven and loved the sweet rain. Tonight, warm and wet I remembered the month this fall when I lived there and did this walk every day. Then I came out of the train and walked through Times Square. Where I have been living for the past month. All bright lights and theater and commerce and tourists. I listened to The Walkmen and Sunset Rubdown and Erica and my own head and tried to make some decisions. Fortunately I came upon this article my cousin wrote. It's pretty great I think. And since I bet you are facing some decisions too-- here it is, for you.

Does God Blink? -- From Malcolm Gladwell to St. Ignatius, the science and spirituality of how we decide
by Kate Clancy
Some call it intuition. Divine insight. Animal instinct. God’s Will. Whatever we label this natural ability to tune in to a deeper inner voice, the question remains: How do we develop discernment in the middle of chaos and indecision?

He may not call it the voice of God, but according to pop-sociologist Malcolm Gladwell, best selling author of The Tipping Point, relying on your first gut reaction is a good way to gamble when it comes to making hard decisions.

In his follow-up book about how we make decisions, Blink, Gladwell looks at a team of firefighters interviewed about their decision-making process during moments of emergency. He concludes that when these professionals make decisions — like evacuating their entire team seconds before a burning ceiling collapses — they don’t logically compare all available options. Instead, they draw on impulse and previous training to assess the situation quickly and act.

What Gladwell is driving at, and what has baffled scholars for ages is: How do we decide? His premise, basically, is that we subconsciously process information more quickly and more efficiently than we might think. This leaves a question of context: If we really are evaluating millions of facts very quickly, how can we move toward a more intentional process? .

[click here to read more]

Monday, May 11, 2009

a birthday and a thought

dear reader,
I just want to thank you for reading this. It has now been a little over two years since I've been at this, and though I'm not the most consistent contributor, I am indeed still at it. I love talking to you. At times I feel like you are a trusted friend and/or a curious stranger-- and both have their places in helping me to 'keep coming back.'
With my birthday last week I had the lovely opportunity to assess pretty much all things in my life and celebrate the good stuff, and, inevitably, be a little too hard on my self about the rest of it. In the past month I got to see two old friends, of 10+ years-- and in both instances I caught myself saying lots of "remember the time..." or "oh, that's where..." and they were both stunned by my memory. A great comedian once used the elephant simile on me. [Fascinatingly enough-- I think elephants REALLY DO have AMAZING memories.]
I just put myself through the great experience of reading Daphne Merkin's 8-page memoir on Depression in this week's New York Times Magazine and one line stood out to me quite a bit. In debating whether to use Electro-Convulsive Therapy (today's update of Electro-Shock Therapy) or not Ms. Merkin highlighted the value of her memories. "I may have hated my life, but I valued my memories — even the unhappy ones, paradoxical as that may seem. I lived for the details, and the writer I once was made vivid use of them."
I love writing this blog. I love writing letters, but I especially love writing when I am not conscious of what the 'tone' of the thing should be. Who it's aimed at. What they may or may not want to hear.
It feels very freeing-- like the greatest old friends-- to be able to say whatever is on my mind without recrimination or much potential for misunderstanding.
Thank you for coming back, whoever you are.

Monday, April 27, 2009

I think Eloise taught me this.

Find a picture. Look at it and then close your eyes. Enter that world. Listen, smell, touch, taste, look around. Let the words come to you like a flash. Open your eyes. Write them down.

Small is relative.

I hope I feel this mischievous on my wedding day.

"Oh grandma, are you sure your legs aren't healed yet?"

This might turn out to be the happiest moment of both of their lives.

"Yea, put your fingers like so-- that makes the whole thing look really authentic."

If you lived here you'd be home now.


I really like yellow.


"Did she say meet her in the ultimate or the penultimate one on the left?"

the pictures are by the wonderful and amazing Peter Turnley from his take on "Family of Man." The link to the pictures are here. He is a good man and has photographed the estimable Codman Academy.

Monday, April 20, 2009

these modest facts

I wrote this 20 days ago but wasn't connected to the internet so then I forgot about it until today. Since I have been so remiss in posting here I'm scraping together even the ones I had forgotten.

John Updike wrote a poem called “Peggy Lutz, Fred Murth” on December 13th, 2008. He died shortly after Christmas, less than two weeks later. Several poems from his final months were published in a recent issue of the New Yorker and it took me several times with the issue before I got through more than a line or two of each. Poetry for me requires a very specific state of mind. Patience. Generosity. Curiosity. Patience again… And compassion, or a willingness to be open and sensitive. To let down the guard of my workhorse self and let the cogs in the machine in my head move about, float a bit, and maybe—hopefully—re-attach in some new and different, transformed way. I can’t be doing three or four things at once and I can’t be thinking about any other thing—at least not until moved to do so by the words on the page. Surprisingly, rare as it is in my day-to-day life—this mode, the state poetry is in-- is probably my favorite. Because, it is also the state where I can really feel. Really think. And really listen.
[I love Mach-4 (as in flight not razor) mode too, don’t get me wrong—and I love feeling fast, efficient, productive. But there’s a little something special about that dreamy other place—where the rules of punctuation and linearity fall away.

from the poem:
“I’ve written these before, these modest facts,

but their meaning has no bottom in my mind.
The fragments in their jiggled scope collide
To form more sacred windows. I had to move
To beautiful New England—its triple
Deckers, whited churches, unplowed streets—
To learn how dreary and deadly life can be.”

I really love this poem and this part of it. I grew up in a triple-decker on a hill in Dorchester that the plows often overlooked. Snowstorms meant going out into the world knowing that more than likely the trip home at the end would include a group effort push of the car up the hill.
In the past few months I have been filling out a lot of applications (fellowships, grants) and prepping for some interviews where questions like "tell us about yourself as an artist" laser at me with terrifying frequency. It was terrifying until I really organized my 'story' -- of truths of course-- but where the ordering and delivery can really shape a stranger's understanding. I lined up and made sense of my modest facts. And I am finding Updike's observation to hold true-- their meaning has a sort of infinite bottom.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

this happened yesterday

On one subway car three men with distinct causes
One man all in white (dress) chanting voodoo and stomping out the bad spirits, and shaking arms like quaking aspens.
One man a young-ish black guy who had a boom box and wanted to throwdown some moves, probably-- virtuosic.
And a white older guy who was maybe part blind.
When the young guy started in at the voodoo guy like “oh please mister, I gots this car find another train to do your voodoo shit on, Go back to Bellevue” this and that—the older guy was like “chill man, we all got our own show going on, our own talent-like”
There was a mother and daughter on the train too who when the voodoo man/woman came stomping near them they would sorta get smaller and the mom would look straight ahead like there was nothing happening but too stiff-like and the daughter was almost laughing and just whispered, “is this for real?”
I think maybe they were tourists, at least the mother most likely.
Everybody was looking around. Almost breaking up laughing or some people looked sad. Raw deal some people got. Its not really funny I guess.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I remember Philip Newby

A few weeks ago the world lost a great, great, hilarious, generous, kind, thoughtful, brilliant STAR. I was lucky enough to share the stage with Philip in Ivona, Princess of Burgundia at Sacred Fools in May & June 2005 and at Soop Sok in Koreatown at my 25th birthday. We sang Time after Time and any time anyone else sang all night Philip pressed the 'applause' button on the console like it was his job. The birthday card he wrote said "get outta my dreams and into my car" and he called his beat-up old car the "pussy wagon." The time that we really knew each other was short-- but quality. Every time I saw him at the theater, or around town, he was ready with a big hug, a smile, and his brawny wit. I too loved spotting him on tv because it made me happy to know Philip was getting paid for what he was so brilliant at... He was so unique, and so comfortable in his own skin. As my friend, and another friend of Philip's said: "you can never know what a person's life is truly like. You can know what they do and how they spend some or even much of their time. But you don't ever know the pain some people feel. Deep, constant pain. It's impossible to understand. has got to be one of the greatest mysteries of life - how someone can get to such a low place where they do not want to exist in this world anymore."

I just wish I could have seen Philip at least one more time.

I kept thinking of Newbs when I heard this song Skinny Love by Bon Iver and I keep looking at pictures of him, and the amazing things people have said on his facebook page. I wonder if he knew how much people love him. I wonder if it would have changed anything. I put together this little video so some of the images and words would be in one place. My friend Bob and I talked a lot about how weird what happens to someone's facebook page is when they die. I don't know-- for some reason going there has been sort of comforting to me. He was a bright bright light and just thinking of him makes me feel a little brighter.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Yesterday morning I watched Hilary's farewell speech to the Senate. She reflected on the past eight years, being a brand-new Senator during 9/11, on the challenges she has faced, the successes that have occurred, and as she was speaking I got a little teary. I felt so proud to know and love New York as much as I do, and I felt like a real New Yorker. [This is a feeling I am somewhat oriented towards listening to since I have been such a tumbleweed/gypsy lately.]
Yesterday afternoon I followed the news on the US Airways flight and the 'hero of the Hudson' (Why is the NYPost so brilliant with its headlines?!) and I felt moved to tears again.
Watching Bloomberg's press conference this morning-- again-- MOVED. As the Mayor put it-- we should all be grateful and go forth into the day with a smile on our faces...
Now, to paraphrase passenger Vince Spera--'if anything bad has to happen to me or anyone I love-- I pray that it happens in the great city of New York.'

Friday, January 9, 2009

limb loss

Sometimes I take my limbs for granted. I forget how much they do for me, how much they mean to me, how they effect me and other people. Once I really was within an actual window of possibility as far as losing an arm. One of the nights in the hospital a loved one had a conversation with my arm over the phone. Since I moved the phone to the area just above my elbow and I don't have speakerphone I couldn't hear what was said-- but I imagine it was something along the lines of "I love you, arm. I love all that you are, arm. Get well soon, arm... so you can go back to being your true arm self." Maybe?
I lost my whole hard drive this week. I actually am in mourning. I haven't been able to fall asleep at night as I think of all the things I lost. I wake up in a sweat in the middle of the night with an image in my head of a photo that I took-- that is gone now. Or some writing I have been working on. Some video. Actually about 1200 photos... I think I am freaked out because the past means a lot to me-- maybe more than is normal or it should. I pride myself on remembering things, moments, experiences-- but I notice my memory is a lot foggier than it was a couple years ago.
Also, because the past nine months have been so important to me. I am sad to have lost almost all documentation of my adventures, projects, etc.
I don't want to be one of those people who has to check in with the electronic device in their pocket every time there is a moment of idleness. I don't want to be a pack rat or someone who doesn't have perspective about material possessions. At the moment though, it's still raw.
And the great irony, well-- wouldn't you know what I was doing when my old pal gave out-- the hard drive had just started sending my whole nine months over to the external hard drive... when, KAPUT.
RIP my first new wave Mac. I will miss you. I appreciate all that you held for me-- even if it was ephemeral.
Anyway though, it's not so bad. On New Year's Eve an older couple who lived near my aunt and uncle lost the last 50 years of their life. It all went up in a blaze.
Happy New Year everyone.

Friday, January 2, 2009

how might it have been any different?

In my opinion, the only way to really move forward is to move THROUGH. I'm pretty sure there was a quote to that effect I saw on the wall in some middle-school classroom-- I vaguely remember referencing it here in fact... but sure enough-- it has stood the test of (some) time and some experience-- and in a variety of different arenas of my life.

You might not have pegged me or this blog as a likely participant in the conversation on the financial crisis and economics-- but since I am a firm believer in understanding a thing BY discussing it... and I want to explore any element of my or others' lives that may be of interest to me, and hopefully others'-- I think the topic itself is ripe for the blog-block.

Mostly though.. I want to say--
READ this article by Michael Lewis from Portfolio called
"The End".

I was turned on to it by David Brook's editorial "The Sidney Awards" in yesterday's NYTime-- an editorial which in and of itself-- on the constant and increasingly shorter-forminification of all things-- is FABULOUS and I also strongly recommend.

Lewis' editorial is great and one of the most concise forays into the current economic crisis I have read. It is also makes a fascinating point on the almost inevitability of America's current financial situation and the correlation between the questionable but status-quo morality practiced in the name of 'Capitalism' in America, as well as our obsession with re-invention, change, all things "new," and youth. I first remember being concerned during one of George W. Bush's State of the Union speeches fairly early on-- he talked about how there were more people buying houses than ever. That struck me as strange-- who were these people, and how on Earth could they afford it? Everyone I knew had less money than ever before and couldn't even afford their rent-- and these were all college-educated working professionals! Also, the proliferation of the freeway exit ramp posters encouraging everyone and their sister to "Buy a House! No money down!!" seemed oddly makeshift and casual for so serious an undertaking as buying a house has always seemed to be to me...