Saturday, April 7, 2007


I don't think it's been much above 35 degrees all day. The tomato plants are covered with plastic bags, and I wrapped the Meyer lemon tree in a sheet. The rest of the plants will have to fend for themselves. If this were say November in New York, I'd think "what a nice rainy cold day to stay inside, eat soup, and read a book." But it's April, and it's Texas. Jesus Christ.

Speaking of which, J., G., and I tried out our gospel trio act in church today. I'm a little unclear on what kind of church it was. It had a name with "Methodist" in it, but their web site says they're adherents of something called "creation theology." They have a big banner on the wall about 12 principles of something, and there seem to be a lot of queer families among their members. Queer in the modern political sense, not in the sense of odd. Nobody there seemed any odder than us.

They were having some sort of children's Easter thing with eggs, and we sang our songs. It was more like a rehearsal for us, one, because nobody was listening, and two, because we weren't very good. (Yes, I'm exaggerating. Two or three people were listening and during "When the Roll is Called Up Yonder" a bunch of little kids danced. And we weren't really that bad, we just need more practice.)

On the way home, it started sleeting. J. said, "If Jesus woke up on a day like today, I think he'd go back to bed for a couple months."

Friday, April 6, 2007

Slow cooking.

I put everything in the slow cooker for the soup, and I spent the afternoon writing. The soup was done when I was done. Oh boy, it was good. With it, J. and I had an organic South African cab (the same wine I used in the soup). Yum. And crusty bread.

Here's what's in the soup. I started with a recipe in Everyday Greens and added stuff:

sweet onion

deglaze with:
red wine

a spice blend of toasted cumin, coriander, black pepper, cayenne, and cinnamon
fresh grated ginger
chick peas
canned diced tomatoes
vegetable stock

simmer till the tomatoes fall apart (a long time)

add and heat through (because they were already cooked):
sweet potatoes
beet greens

and garnish with:
chopped cilantro

I've written about 30 pages, which is roughly the first act. All the characters are in there now, doing what they do. The story is set up; I just have to run with it now.

Freaky weather.

It's downright chilly this morning, and the paper says it's going to get down into the 30s tomorrow. Just a couple days ago, I was sure it was summertime already.

I cooked a big pot of chick peas yesterday thinking I would make hummus, but in honor of the temperature drop I decided to make Moroccan chick pea soup, with garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, tomatoes, red wine. It's a Greens recipe, and I'm adding some diced, roasted sweet potatoes, and some chopped beet greens. Because they're here and need to be used up.

(I saved some chick peas to make a small batch of hummus -- it was a big pot of chick peas! I know because I put them in a bowl in the fridge to cool, and later when I went to grab something else on the same shelf I snagged the bowl and spilled all the chick peas and liquid onto the floor. I scooped them all up and rinsed them off, but our soup may have a couple cat hairs in it.)

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Presto chango.

I just realized that I haven't blogged about my big attitude shift this week.

All this back and forth about the drug studies recently -- first I'm in, then I'm out, first it's $7000, then it's $3500, first it's April and May, then it's not -- making me crazy about my financial straits. For the last couple of weeks I was feeling more and more strung out. I was anxious about my evaporating bank balance, but that stress reproduced asexually and suddenly I was worrying about my writing, about the garden, about Z.

The weekend was bad, I drank too much on Saturday (apparently, though I only had 3 beers), was sick on Sunday.

I hadn't smoked any marijuana for several weeks because, for the drug studies they test for "illicit" drugs as part of the screening process, and pot can stay in your urine for weeks. But Sunday night I said fuck it and I got high. God, I feel better. Ever since, I've been relaxed and cheerful and focused.

So I'll smoke for a few days and then give it up again for a couple weeks before I start looking again for a drug study to take part in. These drug studies are always going on, there are always more of them coming. My financial situation is not going to be any worse two weeks from now, so I might as well relax and make the most of this time I have for myself.

I'm a firm believer in the medicinal use of intoxicants!


I'm burning through the first draft of my screenplay. As I'd hoped, I had written enough scenes and bits of dialog and done enough pondering and considering so that, once I started putting it into screenplay format, it's all just flowing out onto the page. I've spent several hours every day this week writing -- about 6 pages a day.

The numbers are good too. I have 18 pages written, which is 5 scenes, which averages to 3 pages per scene. In my outline, there are 40 scenes, so that makes about 120 pages, which is just right for a feature screenplay. Of course it's still very, very rough, but to be in the ballpark is encouraging.

Moon & Stars.

I feel much better about the garden.

Z. seems to know everything about horticulture. I haven't known him very long, so it's possible he's a psychopath posing as someone who knows everything about horticulture, but my intuition tells me he's for real.

He told me the small patches of mildew on the cucumber leaves are minor, nothing to worry about. The one soybean plant whose leaves are turning yellow can be doctored by putting some coffee grounds around the base of the plant.

The herbs will be fine when it gets warmer and drier. Basil always gets brown spots on some leaves, they just look worse now because the plants are so small. The beetles on the Meyer lemon are, as I hoped, probably there to eat aphids. At any rate, it doesn't look like they're eating the tree.

And the yellow spots on the watermelon leaves are supposed to be there. I planted an heirloom variety called Moon & Stars which has yellow spots on the inside and outside of the fruit as well as on the leaves. Duh.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Bugs, etc.

All kinds of problems in the garden, most of which I have no idea what to do about. The cucumber and watermelon plants have yellow spots all over the leaves.

My internet research didn't help. I think it's mildew, but I couldn't find any advice on what to do about it, except to do things I'm already doing, like not watering at night. All the herbs seem to be covered with mildew too. The basil is doing especially poorly -- all three varieties look sickly. It's been a little humid and rainy the last couple weeks but no more humid than Indiana where my mom's basil does very well every year.

The Meyer lemon is on the verge of blooming. I noticed some red and black beetles sitting on several of the buds this morning. They're about the size of lady bugs, but they aren't. I also noticed one aphid, so I hope the mystery bugs are there to eat the aphids. J. released some lady bugs in the garden last week, but I didn't see them this morning. I hope they're still around.

Something seems to be eating the leaves of the chile plants -- they have big holes in them -- but they seem to be thriving in spite of it. The jalapeños and Thai chilies have a few blossoms already.

I'm discouraged. Maybe Z. will have some advice for me. If he comes over tonight before it gets dark, he can take a look.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007


A woman with whom I shared an apartment in New York in my early twenties, when we were both in art school, used to rail at me about my "sense of entitlement." This would be in the heat of an argument about washing the dishes or cleaning the bathroom, things she felt she always did and I never did. For the most part, this was true. I thought you cleaned things when they were dirty (sometimes really dirty), not just because it was Saturday.

I railed right back, against her characterization of me as a typical American male accustomed to having all the housework done by a female. I didn't see it that way. Compared to some of my male peers whose mothers had waited on them hand and foot, I didn't see myself as having been pampered. But now, looking back, I don't remember doing much housework. My mom cleaned the house top to bottom every weekend and did all the cooking and laundry. She didn't clean my bedroom -- maybe that's why I had the impression that I was a liberated male.

Anyway, my roommate and I were great friends for many years (though we've regretfully lost touch now). Her eternal feminist vigilance was tedious sometimes, but I knew she was usually essentially correct, and I learned a lot from her about how to root out those biases in simple everyday transactions. I miss her.

I think a lot about entitlement, my sense of entitlement, during these periods in my life when I'm particularly whiny about money and my livelihood and my frustration not being able to make a living at what I want to do. Because of course I know that, though I'm broke and anxious about it, my life is relatively luxurious. I'm comfortable, healthy, I eat as much delicious food as I need every day, often more. I complain that I don't want to get a job as a cook for $8/hour, knowing that there are many people who are grateful for jobs like that, or would be grateful if they could even get them. I'm surrounded by people whose struggles to make a living are much more dire than mine, not just on the other side of the world but right here in Austin.

Still, I complain.

I say -- and this feels true to me --that I am so strongly called to make art that if I'm not able to, I feel empty and useless. But is that true? Or is it my white American male sense of entitlement at the root of my opinion that I should be able to do whatever the hell I want to do and somebody should pay me to do it?

Monday, April 2, 2007

Plans or not.

A few years before the end of my career, my partner J. and I read a book, one of those "do this and everything will be fine" books about the music business. I won't mention it by name because of the negative impression I'm going to create. I think it's a fine book and it has been very helpful to a lot of people. In our case, it did a lot more damage than good.

The book sets out a method of structuring a career by making a 10-year plan, then working backwards to a 5-year plan, a 1-year plan, etc. I won't go into why I think this sort of planning is maybe wise for a restaurant or a computer business but not for an artist, except to say that it locked us into thinking about our work (or, to be more accurate, our lives, because there's no difference for an artist) as a series of goals -- goals which we were constantly not meeting, not because of a lack of hard, focused effort, but because of the nature of our work.

Anyway, thank god, it all came tumbling down soon enough. And out of the rubble of what I thought I wanted, I try to create a life as an artist without a business plan. I went from everything being way too planned to nothing being planned at all. This groundlessness is great for my Buddhist practice, but it's not so great for my emotional health.

When J. and I first started talking about what we would do "after," it was terrifying but wonderful that everything was suddenly so wide open, that anything was possible. Opportunities soon fell into place. Producers materialized with money, and I got the chance to create a documentary about our career and be paid for it.

When that was done, I felt pretty insecure as the money ran out and I didn't have other means, but then a random meeting in a bar led me to the owners of the restaurant in Utah where I would go to live and work in the most beautiful place I've ever been for two seasons. Through one of the other cooks there, I met the executive chef at Greens in San Francisco who hired me to work for her. But on a cook's wages, I couldn't afford to live in San Francisco., which is one of the reasons I'm in Austin now.

I grew to believe that when you're not nailed down too firmly, opportunities arise, a path opens. The trouble now is that, yes, a path has opened and I've been free to follow it, but I'm not sure it is the path I want to be on. I got a job cooking in a wonderful restaurant, which led me to another wonderful restaurant, and now I can apply for cooking jobs, but, wait, I thought I was an artist. Why would I want to spend 40 hours a week cooking? That would suck just as much as my old job as a legal secretary and cooks make about a third what legal secretaries make. I don't want to spend 40 hours a week doing anything, if it's just to make money. I gave up the legal secretary gig a long time ago, and not a moment too soon for my sanity.

J. has a part-time job that he doesn't hate. It pays well enough that he can get by on it and still have time and energy for his writing. That would be okay with me.

I'll find out very soon if I have been accepted at U.T. If I'm a full-time student in the fall, everything will change. Even so, I still need to find a source of income that doesn't make me hate myself and my life. Not too much, anyway.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Toast and yogurt.

The study that I was screening for has been canceled. When I told J., he said, "So you wanna wake and bake?" Do I?! But I can't, because I need to keep trying to get into a study soon soon soon and that stuff takes three weeks to get out of your urine.

I went to the Chain Drive last night, had 2 or 3 beers, walked home distraught, wrote the blog entry below, didn't go to bed until 3 a.m. I was up and down with diarrhea until noon, feeling nauseous and chilly. When I got out of bed and checked my messages, that's when I found out about the study.

I've been eating nothing but toast and yogurt today. J. was a little stomach sick a couple days ago, so it's possible we caught a bug. But it's more likely psychosomatic. Emotional distress goes right to my colon.


God I'm sick of this feeling. This encroaching despair as I run out of money. I have about 300 dollars in my bank account, not quite enough to pay the bills I need to pay. And I won't know until some time this week if I am going to be in this drug study that I'm counting on for my next infusion of cash.

You might say, well, if you're tired of being broke then get a job. But the reason I'm tired of being broke is that it's depressing, and having a job will only be more depressing.

I have lots of very nice moments, days that are great. Lately mostly having to do with working in the garden or writing or even blogging. But I want those moments to be my life, not just periodic relief from it.

I always feel like I have two choices. Ever since I was 20 years old, I have felt like I had these two choices:

Behind door number one: get a job. If I get a job, I either have to give up my creative life (despair) or try to hold on to my creative life but never have enough time or energy to give to it (despair). And even if I get a job, the jobs I am qualified for would not pay me enough to break even (despair).

Behind door number two: don't get a job. Keep doing what I'm doing. At least now I feel like I am living some semblance of an artist's life. I am writing. But I am constantly distracted by the need to again and again come up with money to pay the bills and I'm always just short of the bare minimum I need (despair, slightly less than with door number one, but, still, despair).

Nobody worry, I'm kidding about the noose. But I'm not kidding about being sick to death of these two choices. Sick to fucking death. Where's door number three? I need door number three. I am 46 years old and I am weary to my bones of not being able to provide for myself.