F&F, theater

Not exactly breaking news,

but Bart Sher’s SOUTH PACIFIC was amazing–incredibly well done in almost every feature. I could only find one thing to nit-pick, instead of my usual fifty. This is very like someone being like “Wow, that John Updike! Not bad!” The production got so much acclaim when it ran, when it opened, when it got the Tony, that I’m rather late to the praise party. But for whatever it’s worth, we liked it too.

It’s still not a show I could ever want to imagine myself directing. No matter how much context you give everything, Bloody Mary’s dialect lines still rub me the wrong way. It’s uncomfortable to listen to and watch, and as much as a production tries to save her from being a stereotype (and this production really tried) she still comes off as a very limited stereotype. There are other characters in the script who are much more fully realized. She’s the one who makes the whole thing seem like a period piece.

But the music is beautiful.

I touch your hand and my arms grow strong…

Afterwards, dinner at bowling lanes in Timonium. I did not bowl, due to still being a bit sore from having fallen down the stairs on Thursday. But I watched my friends bowl. In one game–the last one–one of them made six strikes, and all three of them bowled at least one strike. It felt like a lucky day. On the way home, we sang the chorus from “Living On A Prayer” a cappella in the car, and two different versions of “Round and Round” at the same time.

This was also the weekend of the Hollywood Performance Marathon at Theatre of NOTE in Los Angeles, on Saturday. I hear it went well; I wish I could have been there. But there are reasons for me to be here, and things to be done here, too.

Cali, F&F, writing

west coast,

best coast.

Yesterday, after Red Rock, Z took me on a tour of Carnegie-Mellon’s campus in Moffett Field, which included driving by several large wind tunnels and blimp hangars. Then I drove to Kepler’s for coffee and visitations with S and LC, which included a trip on campus, to Sweet Hall. (The former White Plaza has been transfigured by lineated bike lanes and large concrete blocks preventing bikers from biking freely elsewhere–and the former Intersection of Death has a giant roundabout.)

This was followed by a harrowing drive in traffic north to San Francisco, where I met with M, had amazing Vietnamese food, walked along my beloved Valencia Street from 18th south, and saw her new place.

There was a street fair going on in the Mission, and people were running in and out of all the stores. Live music was playing. M bumped into an old Swarthmorean, her friend A, currently getting his PhD at Stanford. He and I danced around Mark McGurls’ The Program Era and the Batuman MFA-bashing article. I told him I was writing a response, which seems more true now that I have told more people.

This morning, in Mountain View, it is a bit gray and cloudy outside. Up and working on a grant and on physics labs. It is wonderful to be here. I’m seeing old friends almost every night.

Baltimore, F&F


was a grand success, if I do say so myself (which I do.) No casualties, except a slightly burnt plastic spoon, and no ill effects. A turkey which was one of the better ones I’ve eaten, despite being roasted whole and not in parts. And an excellent group of people.

We cooked all day at my house, then ate, in the company of friends and their dishes, then played three rounds of Uno, of which (again, if I do say so myself) I won the last two. In a row. I would not boast of this except that, for those of you who know my history with games, it is a pretty rare ocurrence.

Cleanup is done. The great reams of leftovers are out of sight. There is time, I hope, to make it to a screening of HP 7.

Outside, it is a moderate gray, with intentions of but no definite signs of rain. Inside, it is extremely pleased with itself.

Baltimore, F&F

the turkey,

having brined in cider for a day, is now draining on a rack in the refrigerator. I have discovered, through extensive testing, that it fits in my oven *and* that it is possible to have other dishes on the top rack at the same time. This is my first semi-solo Thanksgiving–friends are bringing sides but I’m doing the turkey–and it is very exciting, to say the least. There is nothing like holding the flexible severed neck of a recently living animal in your hands. Cervical spine, anyone?

Here’s the menu, themed, as I see it, around fennel, cider, and apples:
the Sems heirloom cider-brined turkey recipe, with sage, sage, and lots of sage (and more sage) passed down from Charlotte (with an apple/parsnip stuffing that I’m baking outside the cavity and without the sausages);
fennel/rosemary stuffing;
kale with shallots;
green beans with fennel and more shallots;
regular old potatoes;
inordinately complicated apple/endive salad (M.R. Shulman, use fewer ingredients!);
and cranberry sauce with both fresh & dried berries.
I’m also going to make some pretty straightforward giblets-based gravy in advance. I have a vegetarian mushroom gravy from Whole Foods as well, because one of the guests is vegetarian.

Friends are bringing green beans in puff pastry, another stuffing, a sweet potato dish, and two pies: apple and squash.

I keep wanting to go out and buy more cider. I can’t imagine that we have enough. Also, Eddie’s has brussels sprouts on the stalk! They look fantastic, and as weird as the dinosaur kale. I sort of want to use them as table decorations. But I probably have enough food already. Probably. Never! SPROUTS!

Disasters so far:
– Spilling cider brine all over floor and all the food in the door of the refrigerator. (Luckily, there was plenty left over, and most of the food in the fridge door was plastic-wrapped and could be cleaned.) After mopping floor several times, floor was no longer sticky.
– Leaving ATM card and driver’s license at bank. (Luckily, I was able to retrieve it.)
– Losing phone. (Luckily, it was still inside house.)

– Borrowing roasting pan from incredibly gourmet friends A & J and getting leftover dinosaur kale and a surprise lunch of absolutely amazing cauliflower soup to go with it.
– As mentioned, discovering the turkey’s willingness to go in the oven in my house.
– Managing to transfer turkey from cider brine onto rack without getting cider brine all over anything again.

So far, the score is Demons of Thanksgiving 3, Dara 3.

art, F&F

so many of my dearest friends are so spread out

“But of all my complaints, the most legitimate and depressing is that so many of my dearest friends are so spread out from Belgrade to Amsterdam to Paris to London to North Carolina to Toronto to Chicago to Santa Fe to San Francisco to Seattle to Fairbanks that I don’t get to see most of them once in two years. […] It’s the price many of us pay for picking our friends from among those we have most in common with professionally, rather than those who happen to live in the neighborhood…”

– From Kyle Gann’s PostClassic tribute to his friend, the recently deceased composer Art Jarvinen. This postscript on what it’s like to lose a dear but faraway friend reminded me, very much, of Ron Allen, and others.

Baltimore, F&F, gradschool


Off for the second day of departmental TA training / boot camp for the introductory creative writing course we all teach. It’s fun to have more of an idea of what’s up this time around.

My freshman roommate has been in town for the past few days, too. Been getting to see more of Baltimore with her–we went to Fed Hill last night for dinner with an old friend of hers from Kauai.

Baltimore, F&F, Poland, the chorus

word for word

(1) There is nothing like a dishwasher full of wine glasses to remind you that last night was good. Yesterday, we had a party for the return of C and D from their recent marriage.

(2) I was in DC today, meeting up with JK. Haven’t seen her since Wroclaw last year. We had breakfast in the mall by the Pentagon City Ritz Carlton, surrounded by hundreds of American star-striped banners, and then I spent some time in her hotel room reading various theatrical papers she had — an introduction to an anthology of new Turkish plays, an advertisement for the Polish Theatre Perspectives journal, a prospectus for a dance festival in Poznan and elsewhere.

The materials she had with her were so pertinent to my current chorus interests that, at one point, I stopped and copied out an entire article, word for word, in my journal. I’m not certain what part of it is actually the most important, or what I will need to go back to, but I didn’t want to miss reading a word of it.

I must go back to Wroclaw soon.

(3) (Bloomsday readings from Ulysses at the James Joyce this evening.)

Baltimore, F&F, travel

The new software requires that you restart your computer now

I’m back from a weekend in Ithaca and my friend’s memorial service.

We had no official religious people present, so the four of us made our own ceremony, out of our memories and a few objects. A housed me and J, in her new apartment on Geneva, and L came the next day. Many others wanted to be present but couldn’t.

We felt a great pressure to properly represent both the absent people and our missing friend. It was a very hard weekend. I was sick, one of my friends threw out his back. None of us slept well. We wanted so much to do justice to him. We were so stressed out that I got into this argument with one of the present friends:

A: This is really stressful.
B: What do you mean, this is stressful? This isn’t stressful. Why would this be stressful?
A: I mean that we are stressed out.
B: What do you mean, we are stressed out?

Around 3 o’clock on Saturday, we began. We began at the falls, but it was too crowded there. We adjourned to Telluride House. It was the last day of the TASP (summer program for high school students at which we met, ten years ago). We walked into the house as the last TASPer was walking out.

We were dressed all in black, carrying an egg crate full of flowers and a folder of photographs. She, the last TASPer to leave, was carrying a suitcase and wearing a white T-shirt. I wanted to tell her our errand, but I think she knew without knowing.

We sat on the second-floor balcony, overlooking the hill. We laid out pictures of him, and lit a candle. We drank rum and smoked cigarettes, and shared them with the ground. We read poems and tributes from those who could not be present, and those who could. J had composed an aphorism for the occasion.

How silent is a flash of lightning:
thunder marks its noisy memory.

A bee rested gently on the white card with his face on it in the center of our setup. Ignoring the flowers to the left and right, he crawled in a circle around the picture.

We hid picture icons of his face in the House, and tacked one to the TASP bulletin board in the main hall. We cast walnuts into the river. We planted a native columbine by the little creek that adjoins the House on the Cornell campus, and placed a stone next to it. We laid flowers on the stone. Then we burned the papers we had brought.

It rained lightly (leap up like that, like that, and land so lightly) throughout. So lightly.

Almost six hours from when we had started, we walked to the Ithaca Commons, and ate dinner as if we had fought a war.

Having returned to Baltimore now, I can see that there is no “justice” with things like this. The only justice the living will allow is for the dead to not be dead. No funeral can be adequate. No memorial can substitute for the person. Whatever you can do – and we did all we could – is good enough.

The heavy rain came on the return trip. Driving back from Ithaca in it, slowed by fog and construction traffic, J played Arlo Guthrie on the Ipod, and then we caught a radio special about Dylan going electric at the Newport Folk Festival. They played an all-electric version of “Maggie’s Farm.” Then a documentary historian told about how, after the negative crowd reaction to the electric guitar set, someone went back stage and convinced Dylan to come out again and play some of his acoustic songs.

He didn’t have a guitar, so he borrowed one from the crowd – and he sang “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.”

J and I reached Philly so late last night that I couldn’t go on to the bus to B-more. I stayed the night in a room belonging to one of my brother’s co-telecommuter co-workers, J’s roommate, in another instance of the world being small enough to fit in your pocket.

I met S, a philosopher, and J and I spent much time lying on the floor and bemoaning our hurting backs and hearts to her.

J’s roommates are moving out of the West Philly house. The room was almost empty. I wrote a poem about the green glass bottle on his bookshelf. The next morning, I carried the bottle down the stairs, helping him move out. And he dropped me off at 11th and Market, by the bus station, and I caught the 10 AM bus back.

I am here now.

I mean more by this than that I am sitting, sweaty and dusty, in my empty room, in the house where I pay rent, typing on my Frankenstein laptop. When I move to a new place, often I feel that I have left most of my self behind. This is why we move, sometimes. But now that I have been to Ithaca and back, on such a task, I am all here now.

Click Restart to shut down all applications and restart.