Saturday, March 10, 2007


I realized that I haven't mentioned that J. and I got film passes for SXSW. They cost $65, which, by our math, is a bargain if we see more than 8 films. J. made out a prospective schedule incorporating most of the films we want to see, and it includes about 4 or 5 films a day through next weekend.

Last night, we also saw Third Ward TX, a documentary about Project Rowhouses, where a group of artists rescued an urban neighborhood. It did the best thing a documentary can do: let you know about something you had no idea existed. Besides which, it was moving, funny, beautiful to watch, inspiring.


We saw a remake of Sisters, a 1973 Brian DePalma film, last night. The original starred Margot Kidder and, though I saw it probably 25 years ago late at night on TV, it was so creepy that images from it still make me shudder. The remake was pretty creepy too, with Chloe Sevigny.

A trio of chatty girls sat near us. They weren't enjoying the film and wanted everyone around them to know it. Actually, they were enjoying laughing at it. Not that the movie was not funny at times. The tone was somewhere in that disorienting world where campy parody and reverence meet, sometimes seeming to spoof bad 70s psychological horror movies (children's voices la-la-la-ing a minor key nursery rhyme) and other times actually being that bad movie. Anyway, I knew these girls weren't getting it and I didn't want them to ruin it for me. I shushed them about halfway through, which worked until the end credits started and then they let loose. "Somebody must have thought this was a good idea!"

I like seeing a movie with a crowd. It intensifies the emotional ride. But the risk is high. I don't like seeing a movie with a dumb crowd.

Garden nightmare.

I just need three tomato plants and two poblano chile plants, and I was waiting to get them at the Sunshine Community Garden plant sale today. I pictured it as a little neighborhood event, urban gardeners selling seedlings, sort of like a yard sale with plants.

Our first film today is at 4, and I have to pick up our first box of produce from the CSA farm this afternoon, so J. and I got going early to get to the plant sale shortly after it started at 9. The street approaching the garden was already lined with cars, so J. dropped me off and went looking for a space to park. On my way in the gate, a smiling teenager handed me several stapled pages of legal-size paper which listed what looked like hundreds of exotic heirloom vegetable varieties. The place was bustling. A brass band was playing, people were scurrying everywhere, and two long lines snaked through the lot. I realized that these folks were waiting in line just to get into two small greenhouses to look at the tomato and pepper plants. And the lines were not moving.

I ambled over to a couple less crowded tables of herbs and flowers. People darted past me on either side, snatching plants from the tables. It was like a going out of business sale in a bad sitcom. I made my way back to the entrance just as J. was coming in. He had parked blocks away in the Unitarian church parking lot. I said, "I don't think I can do this," and we turned around and came home.

I just want to get the plants into the ground so we can eat the produce this summer. For me, having a garden is about the grocery bill and it's about the environment. It's not about a brass band and fighting a crowd for heirloom tomato seedlings. If I can't get tomatoes and poblanoes by Monday, I'm going to just put in more sweet potatoes and lima beans.

Friday, March 9, 2007

A beautiful moment.

I'm finally making some headway on this screenplay chaos. It was, as I knew, just a matter of jumping in and getting dirty. Later today I will have a big pile of paper that will tell me what I've got, what I need to do, what's right, what's wrong. Anyway, I hope so.

When I was in the mess of it yesterday, J. told me he was going to do some laundry and asked if I wanted to join him. Since I only have about 8 days' worth of clothes, I almost always need to do laundry. And one of our favorite restaurants, Mother's Cafe, which is across the street from the laundromat, had burned down the night before, and I wanted to take a look.

J. wanted to stop on the way at the Guitar Center for ukulele strings. We have a gig -- surprise! -- in a show called Gay Bi Gay Gay (one of the glut of events riding on the coattails of SXSW next week). J. had a general sense of where the Guitar Center was, and we drove around for a long time looking. There's a highway in Austin called the Mo-Pac Expressway, and it's some kind of vortex of confusion. Whenever we're trying to find anything on or near Mo-Pac, we're guaranteed to get lost. I remember this from as far back as our first visits to Austin many years ago when we were touring. Mo-Pac = lost.

While we were searching, we got hungry, so we stopped at ZuZu, a Mexican fast food place for lunch. Cheap and delicious. Next door to the restaurant was a Hollywood Video, where J. asked for directions to the Guitar Center. The one on Mo-Pace is no longer there, so they sent us to the one in the Northcross Mall, which is the site of a very controversial future Wal-Mart. The Guitar Center doesn't carry ukulele strings, but J. found a Yahama keyboard he liked, on sale, and he bought it. Fuck the ukulele.

Then we did laundry. The whole expedition lasted about 4 hours.

On the way home, we were listening to KOOP, one of the surviving listener-owned, free-form stations where deejays talk about things that are happening around the corner and play whatever the hell they feel like playing. While the deejay was on the air, another deejay called in sick, and they chatted on the air for a good while. It was International Women's Day, and the sick deejay wasn't happy about it. ("Women get their own day every four weeks. Why don't we get an International Men's Day?")

The on-air deejay asked the sick deejay how we was going to spend his sick day, and he said that he was going to stay home and read a good book. He was reading To Kill a Mockingbird. He'd read it several times already, and he spoke admiringly of Harper Lee "because he really nails the characters and the story," or something like that.

The on-air guy said, "I hate to have to be the one to tell you, but your favorite author Harper Lee is a woman."

"No way! There's no way that could be a chick. He gets all the characters perfectly: Atticus Finch, the little boy Scout...."

"Um. I've got some news for you, man. Scout is a girl."


How often do you get to witness the exact moment when someone's consciousness is changed?

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Spring things.

The garden is almost all in. We still need to put in the tomatoes. There's a plant sale at one of the community gardens on Saturday and I'm hoping they'll have some there. I also want poblanos, but I haven't seen any plants at the nurseries. Maybe they'll have those too on Saturday. And the sweet potatoes haven't rooted yet, so I haven't planted them. But everything else is in the ground, either seeds or seedlings: 3 different kinds of chilies and bell peppers, cucumbers, lima beans, watermelons, pole beans and snap peas, climbing spinach, and peanuts. And in the herb garden: basil (Italian and holy basil), sage, cilantro, parsley, and chives. And I'm rooting some lemongrass to plant in the herb garden, too.

I got an email from a local CSA farm this morning letting me know there's a share available for us. (All the CSA farms I contacted last month were booked up -- things start early in Texas!) So we'll start getting a box of produce every other week now through July from the Johnson Farm.

The weather could not be more gorgeous. It's in the 70s and sunny during the day and gets down to about 50 at night. I'm soaking it up, hoping it lasts for a good while before the heat comes.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Robert Rauschenberg.

I was just reading in the New York Times a review of a show of Robert Rauschenberg drawings. They are the beautiful "transfer" drawings, where he took images from magazines, soaked them in solvent, and then rubbed them onto paper.

When I was studying painting at Parsons (1981, I was twenty and had just moved to New York), Rauschenberg was a favorite of mine, along with Jasper Johns. But especially Rauschenberg. I got interested in collage because of my fascination with his work, especially the transfer drawings.

Very recently, I was reading another article, probably in the Times, either about Rauschenberg or Johns I can't remember which, in which they were referred to as long-term partners, or lovers, something like that. It was an incidental detail in a story about something else. As if everyone knew that. Maybe they do now. But I had no idea, especially not back then when I admired them so much. When I was aping their work.

That would have made a difference to me. It's hard to say exactly how knowing that my favorite artist was a homosexual would have affected my sense of myself as an artist, would have affected the trajectory of my life as an artist, but I know it would have, and I felt cheated and hurt to discover that it had been kept from me all these years.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007


I went to a lecture and reading tonight by Dana Gioia, the poet and chairman of the NEA. I like his work -- he uses plain language. The event was at the Ransom Center at U.T., and the audience seemed to be mostly academics a little older than me, or people who run with that crowd. Sort of a high-brow, literary crowd is what I'm trying to say.

He spoke for about half an hour, then he read a few of his poems, along with a little Longfellow and a little Auden. The title of his talk was "Poetry as Enchantment," I think, or, if that wasn't the title, it was his thesis. He made the case that poems, by using language in a specialized way that interacts with us as whole beings, have the power to cast spells. That poetry literally has the power to change us.

That these people needed to be told this was worrisome to me.


I was just typing up some poems I wrote while I was in Utah last summer. They're the first poems I've written since high school. I've always been intimidated by poetry, regarding it as an esoteric art form that I would only embarrass myself by attempting. Which is just silly, I know. I like to think that one of my strengths as an artist is a talent for concision, an ability to reduce ideas and images to their essence. So why wouldn't I be a natural poet?

I drafted these Utah poems on a yellow pad, the kind I always write on. One of the poems is about some ants I observed on the floor of the yurt I lived in for a few weeks. When I flipped the page to this poem about ants, an actual, live ant crawled right off the page onto my desk and disappeared. It must have been there since August, just waiting for me to transcribe my poems.

Here's the ant poem:

All morning ants
are dragging corpses
across the floor
under me, a bee,
a moth. A moth!
but it's too heavy.
The ant gives up, leaves
the carcass. Relieved,
I go back to my desk.

A minute later I look up
and the moth is gone.

Monday, March 5, 2007


J. and I went to The Animation Show last night at the Paramount Theater. It's a touring program of animated short films, curated by Mike Judge and Don Hertzfeldt.

All the films were wonderful, but a few stood out. "Everything Will Be OK," by Don Hertzfeldt was particularly beautiful and moving, as was "Dreams and Desires" by Joanna Quinn. Both were beautifully drawn. The experience got me to thinking that if I really want to incorporate my visual art training into my film work, I should be doing animation. Hm.


Jay is building a fence around our garden. I gave up helping him and came inside. I think I'll let him make the fence, and I'll do the planting tomorrow. It's still sometimes very difficult for us to work on a project together. Even after all these years and so many lessons, so much forgiveness.

Here's the pattern, as far as I can make it out: J. has a plan. I'm unclear on the details of the plan. I ask for clarification. J. seems reluctant to answer. The more I press, the more frustrated he becomes. Not having a sense of the outline of the project, I decide to see if I can figure it out as we go. J. becomes frustrated that I'm not forging ahead on my own but waiting for his cues. He stops talking, but keeps working. I'm angry because I don't know what the hell is going on. He's angry because I'm not helping.