Poland, the chorus, theater, travel

The Belle of Something City

July 20, 2011
Dear Milo, and everyone,

I’m sorry I haven’t called, I’m sorry I haven’t responded to your emails, and I’m sorrier that I didn’t get to see you before I left. But I have left, although I still have an hour or so left in the United States. We will not see each other for some time. But I am going to try to be writing here.

I am sitting at a cafe table in Newark Airport, waiting for a flight to Munich. From there, I will take a puddle-jumper to Wroclaw, where I will begin a year-long program with a Polish theater, Song of the Goat (Teatr Piesn Kozla). I will be doing their in-house MA in Acting program, and training with them. This study is being funded by a Fulbright.

None of this has sunk in at all, BTW. Last night I was working on a grant for a theater company I sometimes freelance for, and I was rattling off the facts of their announcements. So many performances, so many audience members, X, Y, Z. That’s what it feels like for me to write “I’ll be on Poland for a year, on a Fulbright.” It feels like I’m describing someone else’s life, rather than my own. Someone who has it together—someone who isn’t wearing socks and flip-flops.

But it’s me, together or not together. It’s me, following the trail of the elusive Greek Chorus Beast, as usual.

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gradschool, travel

we live by the river

Well. I have graduated; I have left Baltimore; I have made it to Pittsburgh, for intensive Polish language school. I will be here for the next 6 weeks.

I took the train from Baltimore on Thursday. I have been here about 24 hours (of which most have been spent asleep) and am now going to Target for everything I forgot. I am going to take a bus over a river.

I am working on a longer blog/journal post for tomorrow or Monday, in a new format I want to use in Poland, of about a week’s worth of journal entries per post. For the moment, here’s some Dumas (up next), and I hope you are all having an excellent weekend.

gradschool, travel

It’s been a long time

since I posted here, or since I was sitting in Portland’s Union Station, waiting for a train to Seattle.

I’ve spent spring break in the Northwest–Ashland, Klamath Falls, Portland, and now further north. I’ve seen a lot of friends, some of whom I haven’t seen in three or four years. If they would install that portal between Baltimore and Portland, it would make matters much more convenient.

I’ll spend the next few days with family in Seattle and then return to Baltimore, and to Hopkins, for the last months of the poetry MFA. I graduate in May.

fooooood, theater, travel

the way to go to the city

is like this. Fly-by-visitor. Businthemorning: food: theater: more food: friends far too long missed and most dearly revisited: and back in Baltimore before midnight via yetanotherbus. If you go for less than a day, no suitcase required! I got to walk around with the lightest bag I have ever carried in Manhattan. I bought four books at Biography-soon-to-be-BookBook in the Village, all of them bought to give away, saw Donald Margulies’s new play at MTC, TIME STANDS STILL, with Laura Linney (very, very good: it’s nice to see theater so spot-on that you cry before intermission) and ate some of the most enormous latkes that have ever been conceptualized, as well as chocolate croissants and Cantonese food with lotus roots. They (the lotus roots) look like tomatoes, taste like water chestnuts, and behave like pinwheel pasta. You must, as soon as you can, see both Laura Linney and the lotus root.

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.

int'l theater, theater, travel

to the airport

And so, it’s time to travel again – this time with a better suitcase. I think the so-called wisdom of age is only about equipment. I am not any wiser, but I have more tools.

Yesterday was a day of packing and errands and scenes from John Lennon’s music and discovering that the poets are a bunch of unreliable narrators all over again. It is possible to do so many things quickly in Chicago, but sometimes quickly is not well – like my decision to buy an alarm clock that turns out to beep every hour, on the hour. I don’t think I can take it with me. The other people on my ten-hour flight would have something to say about it.

There’s no more time. Maybe that’s what the clock is trying to tell me.

I have just emailed people to let them know that I am traveling, today, to Wroclaw, Poland, to participate as one of the US directors in the US Artists’ Initiative as part of the Grotowski Year 2009. This will involve attending performances in the World As A Place of Truth festival, going to workshops, and learning a lot more about director Jerzy Grotowski’s work and influence. I am one of about 30 US directors who have been invited to participate in this initiative, and to observe. It’s such a great honor for me to have been included with this group of people.

My grandfather left Poland in the 30s to come here, and I am going back – the first of our family to return since then. Those who left, survived, and those who stayed, did not. I will be trying to remember that story while I am traveling, too.

My flight is nonstop Chicago to Warsaw. C is driving me to the airport this afternoon, during which time we’re going to talk Indy Convergence some more – I will have an opportunity to give a short presentation on my work and my affiliated theater company.

I will be trying to blog live from the conference. My cell phone will not work at all, starting today, until I return around July 4th, but I will have some access to email.

There is a window of Chicago directions left on this screen from last night. It’s always funny when you wake up and see maps from yesterday. It reminds me of seeing the Thomas Guide to Los Angeles’s freeways, or some other guidebook to a place I don’t live any more. I close the window.

Here’s to making a new map.

music, travel

a harrowing choice of self

“Despite the millions of times I have packed my suitcase, I still regard each packing “event” as a kind of metaphysical decision, a harrowing choice of self. Am I the person who cares not for image? Pack a hoodie and black sneaks, maybe some underwear, and your concert clothes, and fill the rest of the suitcase with Horace, Pound, Susan Sontag. Or, am I the snazzier metrosexual? Suddenly, my suitcase blooms with flowered shirts, orange sneakers and strange shirt-jacket amalgams, leaving no room for verse. (Always pack a notebook; then, you say to yourself, I can “work on my writing.”) In the midst of this decision–this quasi self-realization–one often forgets one’s toiletries! A concert without deodorant is not to be tolerated, especially by the pageturner. And so, at the eleventh hour, you assemble your sundries. Don’t forget your music, you idiot!!! And fill the humidifier. Hide incriminating evidence. Breathe.”

– Pian”blogger”ist Jeremy Denk, packing.

dialogue, ovhd, travel

you don’t like it

SCENE: This morning, DARA is reading, for the nth year running, a large group of one-act plays for a high school festival. She is sitting with her travelworn laptop at Janik’s at the corner of Division & Damen. Overhead, an exposed heating pipe is wrapped in plastic-tubed Christmas lights. Underneath, the floor is tiled like a chessboard. To her right is a wall of comic-book art plated in glass stacked like a European museum, where there’s so much art you can’t afford to let each piece have its own place on the x axis. To her left, a flatscreen is streaming images from NASA, interspersed with images of the menu. Galaxy – catering available. Supernova – Stella Artois. Behind DARA, people are glossing over emotions, in that way when someone has given you too much information, and you have to say something – but nothing you can say will be enough. She listens. It’s never too early.

A: (trying) Hey, that’s how life is, right – you don’t like it, hit the road.
B: Yeah. And I did.

L'Internet, travel

the red pill makes your internet bigger

Hey Alice, you can make the font on websites larger by pressing Apple (command) – plus key, smaller by pressing Apple (command) – minus key. I can now read Maud Newton, after all these years of wondering what everyone was talking about. Yes, Dara, it is a really good litblog site! Who knew! Not me – eyes hurt like hell every time I tried to read it.

Sometimes I wonder if the reason my vision is getting so bad so quickly is, like everything else, that misguided but quixotic “year of freelance assistant directing” business. Recipe: Take all the healthbucks you have left, and spend them – in one place. Result: memories for a lifetime, and ailments to match. Too much time in tech and on planes and on couches. The statement “I’m not as young as I used to be” is true for all values of “I,” “am,” “young,” and “used,” so perhaps it has no meaning.