I share with the painters the desire
To put a three-dimensional picture
On a one-dimensional surface
~ Nikki Giovanni, “Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day”
Dream: Tim Kaine needs two sets of pants, one under the other, in the shape of sweat pants, “does anyone sew?” and I say “I do” and I measure him—a pink oxford button down, gray slacks, and a belt—and I set about cutting the pants, front and back, out of black broadcloth, and I lay the cutouts, one atop another, on the floor—a colorless floor but like the looped industrial carpet that covered the addition on our house that went on when I was nine, thin carpet over concrete, no pad underneath, that sort of stretched out and bubbled over the years, the speckle of browns and tans and blacks developing ridges that could become rough terrain for matchbox cars. Looking at the cutout pants, I realize I don’t know how to make the second set to go underneath, a set in gray, and how to make sure they will both fit. The cutouts just lie there, flashing before me throughout the rest of the dream that involves my parents, a course catalogue for classes that I’m not sure why I’m taking, the order in which I’ve written them down is the order in which I’m taking them by days of the week, and I wonder if this is wise. I wonder if anyone else can sew and Lauren at work (who looks like Darla, a secretary from my old school) says she can do it, and I let her, though realizing I’m disappointing Felice and Richard, who would expect more of my costume training from college…yellows, creams, muted pastel shades…views turn to crowds inside and around the “house where I grew up,” which isn’t quite that, as it isn’t in dreams. One of my former students, Kristen, is teaching two of the classes (I know this by two different head shots of her, in soft-focus pastels, like a graduation shot in the ’70s), and I know I only signed up for one, and my mom tells me that instead I should take this science theory class by James someone, and I see it, upside-down in the catalogue, and sign up, feeling sure I’ve taken on too much. Books clasped to my chest, I begin walking and see Lauren in this floating throng of humans on a hilly street and wonder if she will finish Tim Kaine’s pants.
Mind Train Wreck
This morning, after recalling my dream, I began thinking about Patti Smith’s M Train, and how she dispensed with exposition for the most part, saying at one point that the last time she saw her friend Lou Reed was in a restaurant with “his wife, Laurie,” not explaining that “Laurie” is Laurie Anderson. This is Patti’s life, her mind, and she knows who everyone is. On one level, perhaps she figures you do, too, if you are reading her. One imagines her saying, should you counter that you, the reader, aren’t sure, “Look it up.”
I’m reading show business autobiographies right now, Patti done, and Bruce begun, and now too Noël Coward—this last a used copy (for it’s out of print) of all three of his personal writings, Present Indicative, published in 1937, Future Indefinite, published around 1954 (I think—look it up), and inserted in between these is Past Conditional, written in the 1950s but never published. I read autobiographies, and good biographies, for the pleasure of their company. “There is no Frigate like Book…,” wrote Emily Dickinson, who never traveled far from home. There’s an exhibit of her writings and things right now at the Morgan Library here in New York, and I need to head out there soon. Maybe today.
In addition to books and museums, I also try to use theater for diversion from these most surreal of times, and so went to see a play at Theater Row on 42nd Street yesterday, a two-hander that had been what Noël Coward would have called “a smash hit,” and my friend Colleen knew someone in the two-hander cast. Speaking for myself, I slept through a good deal of it. Nice set, but neither actor in it could act, and that’s always a problem. What do I mean by not being able to “act”? I mean, while they’ve clearly been trained, and they could speak, and walk, and say things in ways “distinct” to each “character,” still, from the beginning, neither really listened to or was present to the other. Over the course of the play, neither character, as performed here, grew or changed, though the script—an existential thing on what, I guess, amounts to things that unexpected encounters with strangers can teach us, and them, but I don’t really know what that was—intimates that they are better men for having met. As far as directing, I can’t see that there was much of that beyond the physical business, perhaps the blocking, but no character work that would illuminate this play. The only way a playwright gets away with work like this is by having actors such as Bill Nighy and Chiwetel Ejiofor (both of whom I saw in London in Blue Orange by Joe Penhall) play it—because their brilliant minds and actions fill in the gaps, and this play seemed to have many of those gaps. They talked a lot, these two, but didn’t say anything, if you see what I mean, though the goal of each was stated several times, “I am going to tell you the truth.” Okay then. But as Colleen said, “They turned out to be telling the truth the whole time, because they told us that.”
And if you can’t get at actual truth, why go to the theater? Or live in America?
So seeing this sad excuse for a show from England about straight white men meant that we missed the LGBT support protests down by Obama’s landmark-designated Stonewall Park by Christopher Street, but Colleen and I walked downtown in time to see the end, the dozens of barricades probably up for naught, as we made our way to Houston Street only to learn what everyone else outside Film Forum did, which is that the documentary I Am Not Your Negro is sold out forever. What else to do but search out a place to eat, and Colleen found us a Mexican joint “that I swear used to be Italian” on 7th Avenue, and delicious tacos and a 2-for-1 margarita special took the sting out of being let down, all around. Around us were young people, 20s, probably part of the protest, black, white, gay, straight, transplant New Yorkers with money, all eating Mexican.
If these colors don’t look right to you, you probably voted for Trump. You are probably like the Arizona women that my dad, Bernie, saw interviewed yesterday morning who thought Trump was doing “wonderful” and couldn’t understand why anyone was protesting.
A Heart-stopping Time of Staggering Ignorance
It’s Black History Month, which President Donald Trump “re-Christened” “National African American History Month,” because presidents do that, but this president seemed to think that Frederick Douglass, whose name he’d heard somewhere that day, must be still alive and “is being recognized more and more.” Given the massive size of this historical blunder from Trump, I feel quite sure that there will be no Official White House screening of I Am Not Your Negro, also because this president chose, as his first movie screening after being inaugurated, Finding Dory. It’s right out of the Onion. I suppose I could Google Trump’s reasons for desiring that kid’s movie, but he doesn’t need reasons. He’s only eight years old, apparently. Too small to fill even Tim Kaine’s pants.
In the meantime, while Uncle Donald and his buddies Sean and Kellyanne jangle more keys of stupidity before a gullible public, congressional Republicans are opening up previously protected parklands, 3.3 million acres of them, out west, to drilling for their oil company friends. (“Why are they protesting?”) And these same Republican minds voted to lift the EPA restrictions on how much coal waste the mining companies could dump into the rivers. There were two diesel pipeline spills into two Iowa rivers the other week. It’s only drinking water. So Trump will have his buddies start placing a pipeline under the pristine water source to the Indians out in the Dakotas. It’s not his drinking water. (“Why are they protesting?”)
It’s busy times in the business of restricting women’s rights, too. The president and congress are talking more abortion limitations and defunding Planned Parenthood. Oh, and restricting the rights of citizens and people with passports and green cards when traveling, like banning Muslims and diplomats who have ever traveled to Iran. And while expressing ignorance of race and raping our public lands and threatening our water supply and the House Republicans giving back gun rights to the severely mentally ill in the form of denying their information to the SS Administration for the purpose of background checks—in only two weeks all this hell broke loose—the Republicans feel good. They feel strong. And the good women of Arizona, as interviewed, have no idea what all the “liberal” fuss is about. This makes even the most determined-to-unify among us what to split off from this butt-ignorant third of the nation, but they live either by the Grand Canyon or have the best farmland, so we are beholden.
The New Yorker paints a rather bleak picture, and I’d like to think it’s a wake-up call.
It’s hard to get up in the morning. It’s hard to sleep through the night, so mostly I don’t. I’ve gained so much weight—yesterday morning I was sure I was living in a fat suit—that I don’t even know myself (where’s Conway to provide an alternative take on my image?). I guess I’m letting the terrorists win—and by “terrorists” I mean white Americans in the mold of Trump and of Timothy McVeigh. And American men in general: There’s no one scarier as far as I can see than a white American male in possession of a presidency or a firearm. In fact, 1500 American women a year are killed by their intimate American male partner (often white), as opposed to the (on average) 2 Americans by so-called jihadists, and to the 30,000 Americans who will be killed by guns, and mass killing victims mostly done in from the triggers of guns owned by white American men. But a white guy on my Facebook wall went on a tear while I took a break yesterday, going into minutia to do with a post about the repeal of the law on background checks, and mercifully a friend in the Justice Dept. corrected his views, and all I could do when I read this was lament that this dude cared more about inconvenience to a few mislabeled gun nuts, er, sorry, citizens, than for the 30,000 deaths per year by guns, the mass shootings done by the mentally ill white guys like him (meaning white and male, as far a I know not mentally ill, but hard to say). Where is our sense, where is our empathy as a nation? What are we teaching the kids? White male makes right?
Why I Get Up at All
First, I have to use the toilet. Second, I want coffee. Third, I have to get on with it because it’s only going to get worse, and I’ve had it pretty good up to now. I also enjoy listening to the birds. And seeing stuff grow out in nature. And around town. And then I get to write about it.
Today my mind feels like Nikki Giovanni’s “cotton candy on rainy day” which is to say, “the unrealized dream of an idea unborn,” but I have to go with it. And drink tea. And today, obviously, I have to finish sewing Tim Kaine’s pants.