Saturday, July 3, 2010

Saturday Morning Meta.

I wonder if this is something that only artists do, or if it’s common or universal, to move through life while simultaneously watching and mentally composing and memorizing the story for later use. Now that I think about it, I suspect it might be very common now, in this age of Twitter and Facebook status updates; but, then again, maybe these new social networks don’t create, but just provide a convenient forum for, a natural human tendency to crystallize and flourish.

I have to say it has felt a little edgy, writing about my breakup here, immediately making public all the really intense, awful stuff. Live-blogging my heartbreak.

I feel compelled. It’s like when J and R and I were on the road and things started spinning out of control, there was a part of J and me that was like, “Grab the camera and point it this way, some shit’s about to go down.” I just feel compelled.

Besides whatever value it might have for others to read, the writing is where I organize my thoughts. I write down whatever I’m feeling or thinking about, but then I spend a substantial amount of time rewriting and editing, moving stuff around, finding a better word, with the goal of being as simple and clear and truthful as I can be. I’m not just organizing the writing: organizing the sentences and paragraphs is a way of organizing my thoughts.

And it suspends the pain and pressure for a while, too, it really does. I think it’s because when I write I am at a critical distance, a philosophical distance. And the fact that I can sit down and do this reassures me that, when everything is fucked up and I can’t manage my life, at least this one important part of me is functioning.

A couple friends have sent me appreciative emails about this little chronicle; so I feel like it’s okay.

The only thing I’ve been slightly reticent about is some of the specific content of communication I’ve had with M. In the last few days, we’ve emailed a couple times about my bicycle, which I left at his house. I took the opportunity to ask him questions about what happened, and he has shared some of his thoughts, and it’s been calm and clear and nice. We have plans to meet this weekend and talk more. I’ve been reticent to share much of that conversation because for some reason I don’t want to make him feel like it’s his life being scrutinized along with mine. (But actually I just remembered having a conversation with him a couple months ago about the ethics of an artist working in an autobiographical idiom using the details of others’ lives in his work, and M expressed a much more permissive attitude than I did, so I’m probably safe.)

I don’t know if he even reads this. I think he used to from time to time, but I’ve never imagined him as being in the audience. Hm.

Friday, July 2, 2010


T and I have been emailing and talking on the phone the last couple weeks about Lizzie Borden (the new exciting thing about which coincided with my breakup freakout so it got a little overshadowed but about which I still can’t tell anyone dammit! -- but soon), and also about me moving back to New York, and about the two of us forming a company to do new work together. New theater work, film/video, hybrid performance. I’m excited about the possibility of performing again, and about writing songs again. I haven’t done either in years.

My creative energy kicks in when I have someone to work with, someone else’s ideas to bounce around, someone’s confidence in me, and someone’s expectations of me. I know this fact says all kinds of interesting things about my personality, about non-art aspects of my life, my history with men, my relationship with M being particularly in the news lately, but is it a bad thing that I need to overcome? Can it just be a way of working, and not a disorder? Independence is overrated.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


If I’m not going to make a living as an artist, I would love to be teaching college kids -- I think I could do my work and teach, and in fact the two would feed each other, right? That’s like a thing that people do.

In order to teach college, I need another degree or two, an MFA or a PhD, depending on what it is I want to teach. I love being in school, so it’s not like I would mind spending another few years getting a degree. The big question is, is that a good plan if my goal is to change this state of never-ending financial duress? Smaller questions are: what would I study? where? is it financially feasible?

The main reason for going back to school 3 years ago was that I thought if I had an MFA in film I would be able to teach college. I spent 2 years finishing my BA so I could apply to the MFA program here at Texas. I didn’t consider other MFA programs because at the time I wanted to stay in Austin. I was tired of moving around, and I wanted to make a home here. Well, one, I didn’t get into the MFA program, and, two, I haven’t made a home here, and in fact I’m pretty sure I’m leaving.

Do these circumstances add up to say that I should be looking at MFA programs in New York? Should I be applying to NYU film school? What the fuck? Why am I so unsure of myself? I just want to relax and feel like I made the right decision for once.


I’d say I’m doing quite a bit better the last couple days. No crying to speak of (though that’s untested, since I’m good at avoiding the triggers). The contact I had with M yesterday made me feel a bit less crazy. Besides everything else, just the physical fact of apruptly not seeing or talking to him, suddenly spending evenings alone in my room with no one to talk to, was disorienting.

I’m clearheaded enough now to be embarrassed about some of my behavior in the last two weeks: returning M’s gifts to him, driving by his house at night,, unfriending him on Facebook. Embarrassed, but inclined to forgive myself and be glad I didn’t do anything worse.

I spent hours yesterday and today looking up and applying for jobs in New York. And there’s been a flurry of activity with Lizzie Borden. I’m dying to announce some news, but I have to wait for a few days for an official press release before I can talk about it. I’ve also been watching movies for the film festival, so my days have been full.

I’m meditating. Hard to say if it’s helping, it’s such a slow, incremental process. I’m not finding the Pema Chodron book to be, as I thought it would be, what I need right now, but her voice is reassuring and the words are wise. I’m also reading a book by Max Frisch called Man in the Holocene, which is a long story or a short novel and a bit of a slog. T is interested in it as a possible source for a new show. It’s not exactly straightforward.

Reading is a frustrating experience. My glasses -- which are not that old (I got new ones after my accident last summer) -- are for shit. I can either hold a book at arm’s length and the text is clear but so far away I have to strain to make it out or take off my glasses and hold the book 6 inches in front of my face where it’s crystal clear but … well, 6 inches in front of my face. My lenses cost about $8-900. I have bad eyes.

I’m still eating virtually identical salads for dinner every night, though tonight I varied it a bit with my sister’s simple Greek dressing (lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper). Eggs for lunch, no breakfast. Beer.

What I Miss II

Other things I miss are M’s misanthropic, possibly slightly insane, but very funny roommate and his maybe girlfriend (I never was quite sure), who made me feel liked, and her sly daughter. And M’s roommate’s very sweet and very needy but well-behaved black lab, and M’s two gorgeous, affectionate, and funny cats. And M’s two best guy friends, colleagues from work, whose company I enjoyed very much. I had become an adjunct member of M’s household, and I felt comfortable and appreciated there. I miss that.

M and I have had a couple of emails back and forth the last two days. Until a few days ago, I had forgotten that I left my bicycle at his house. I had to contact him about that, and I was grateful for a reason. I also asked him again if he could articulate some of his thoughts about the change in his feelings. He sent me a long reply explaining some of what he was thinking about me and us and what was wrong. After reading it, I felt like a big portion of the weight on my heart had been lifted. I want more than anything to learn from this.

One thing I’ve learned is that I really do want a partner. I don’t know exactly what that relationship would look like, and I think the parameters are wider now after this experience, but I don’t want to be alone. I feel somewhat relieved to admit that. For a long time after J and I separated, I thought I did want to be alone. I thought I was better alone. At the time maybe I was, because I wasn’t very good at being with someone. I didn’t know how to not lose myself.

But I think I am learning. I think eventually, maybe before I’m too old to enjoy it, I’ll get good at being in a relationship. It doesn’t have to be with just one man -- two or three would be fine with me, but I don’t want to be alone.

Tonight I watched a short doc, one of the films submitted to the festival, and it blew me away, gave me hope for the future and for New York. The subject was a burlesque performance artist and total gender freak and devotee of some Hindu religion making a life for him or herself in New York. I was very moved.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Maybe it’s my age, but lately I seem to second-guess every decision I made about my career. I wonder lately if I ever even made any decisions or if I just went along with whatever came at me.

If a return to New York is going to be a fresh start, I need a new way of being. I want to have learned at least some small thing from this time, this experience, not just this relationship with M but the last few years of what has felt to me like trying and trying and failing and failing.

I know sometimes I’m a know-it-all. I profess to know myself very well. I always think I know what’s going on. Sometimes I do. But obviously sometimes I don’t at all. Whatever I’m doing lately, or ever, is not working.

I think I’ve always felt a bit like this, but lately it’s really intense this feeling of “why is it so hard? why is every little thing so hard?” I know it’s all of my own making – that’s what I’m trying to figure out: how it happens. So I can change it. What is the process that gets me here? What can I be doing differently?

I think I need not necessarily to be examining what I was attached to and disappointed to lose in my relationship with M. I need to be examining what I am attached to in myself, what is it about me that I think, “this is who I am, this is the way I am.” What is it I’m doing, what is it I believe about myself that is creating so much friction?

It’s raining hard today. I opened my window. It smells good.

What I Miss.

A couple times yesterday and today I looked at the craigslist mfm ads and at a site called I used to check them out on and off, sort of compulsively at times, before I met M, and I very rarely met anybody that way but still looked, just sort of voyeuristically. I guess I like looking at naked pictures of random lonely people. Not that it wasn’t always a bit depressing, but now it seems extra pathetic, guys saying they’re looking for a ltr and uploading close-ups of their anuses. That’s what I’m back to. Yay.

Not that anonymous hookups can’t be fun and hot, but that’s not what I crave, not what I miss. I miss sitting up in bed watching a movie, M’s head on my shoulder. God, that was nice. I miss falling asleep with M’s back against my front. I miss smiling and kissing and his hand on my knee. And fucking, too, yes but only along with all the other stuff.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


My mom had been emailing lately, asking how I am, and I’d been kind of vague -- that’s a project for another day, taking apart why I’m always reluctant to let my mother know I’m in pain -- but today I sent her a note telling her that M and I had broken up and I was feeling low. She hadn’t even met M, and I guess I was a little embarrassed because I’d been telling her all about him and saying how much I knew she’d like him. (She would.)

Anyway, she said her mother’s intuition had told her something was wrong and she extended an invitation to come stay with her and my dad for the rest of the summer, room and board in exchange for cooking for them. I got an almost identical offer from a friend who lives in Indianapolis. And another friend, in the town in Utah where I lived and worked a few years ago, invited me to come there and lick my wounds.

Of course what I hope will happen is I’ll find a job in New York soon and I’ll move there. But the odds lately of what I want to happen actually happening are not good, so it’s comforting knowing there are people who want me around.


Here’s what I ate yesterday. Does this seem like a reasonable amount of food to eat in one day?

1 slice of rye toast with peanut butter.
4 cups of coffee with 1/2 & 1/2.
2 eggs scrambled with sautéed mushrooms.
1 Dr. Pepper.
A big salad with romaine, radishes, red onion, roasted red pepper, cucumber, sautéed asparagus, white beans, chicken, parmesan, vinaigrette.
3 beers.
2 flour tortillas with feta and olives.
1 scoop of vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Who Scared Who?

After getting such a good start last week on eating better, I was really compulsive over the weekend. My friend whose house I’m staying in buys lots of snacks -- chips of all kinds, cookies -- and that stuff is like crack to me. If it’s in the house I want to eat it till it’s gone. Even when it’s not really mine, I can’t keep my hands off it. When I live alone, it’s easier to abstain. It’s easier not to buy it than it is not to eat it.


M wasn’t able to articulate much of what he was thinking and feeling that led him to want out, but three things he was fairly clear about. One, he was no longer interested in having sex with me. And two, he worried that I was, as he said, putting all my eggs in one basket (our relationship, him). And he made a tentative connection between the two. He said that his concern about 2 may have led to 1. And three: he said that when he started to feel like he needed to take care of me -- because I’ve had so many worries about money and career since I met him -- he started to lose interest sexually.

Maybe this is obvious to everyone but me -- it wouldn’t be the first time -- but it occurred to me today that I have been wrong in saying that M was scared of how deeply invested in the relationship I was. He was scared of how deeply invested he was. Right?

The day after the last time I saw him, I unfriended him on Facebook, and I regret it now. It still hurts to look at pictures of him, but at the time it felt unbearable. I wish I’d had the foresight to just hide his posts for a while. He doesn’t post a lot.

I’ve been thinking a lot about B, the wonderful man I was with from the age of 23 to almost 30. We were as close to married as I think I will ever be. We lived in a floor-through apartment in a brownstone (granted, a very run-down brownstone) in Ft. Greene in Brooklyn with 3 cats and a dog. It was a very sane, stable, comfortable arrangement. And then one day, suddenly I decided that I needed to be alone, that my life was not satisfying, that I had become someone I didn’t want to be, that I was missing something. And I left him. I wasn’t able to articulate why, except to say that I still cared for him every bit as much, but that I wanted out. After 6 years.

I don’t want to say that this is the same, but I sympathize with M not being able to tell me what’s in his head, whether he knows or not.

B and I have stayed loosely in touch, more so since Facebook. A few years ago, almost 20 years after leaving, I wrote him a long note trying to explain more fully, with the benefit of hindsight, what was in my head back then. Apologizing, in a way. I think that experience is why, despite my confusion and frustration, I don’t have ill feelings toward M. But I hope I don’t have to wait 20 years to know what the hell happened.

I’ve cried very little the last two days. I feel blank, but I’m finding some pleasure in preparing meals and eating. I still don’t have any desire to spend time with friends, except J. I meditated again today for 10 minutes, and it wasn’t at all difficult, so I’ll increase the time to 15 or 20 minutes tomorrow.


It’s been over two weeks since the last night I slept with M.

It does begin to seem like it must have been a dream, because the world changed so abruptly, like waking up. It saddens me that it doesn’t feel like a good dream but a confusing, disturbing dream, incompletely recalled. All those sweet hours and days, the little things we enjoyed together, the trip to Mexico, look almost sinister in retrospect because I question my perception of it, I wonder if I was badly mistaken about what was happening then in light of how he ended it. In my heart of hearts I want to believe that he loved me, that he wanted to share his life with me, that what we were doing together was reciprocal, mutual -- it felt that way at the time -- but … I don’t feel certain now. That, more than anything, breaks my heart – not that it ended, but that I’m not even sure what it was anymore.


I think the reason I feel so calm and assured when I’m writing here, the reason I take comfort in this, is that I like who I am when I’m writing. I like this me. I spend way too much time not liking myself. Changing that is a lifelong project, but I make progress. This experience has been self-mortifying in a way that’s good in the long run, I guess. I’ve had a chance to take a hard look at myself in daylight. Possibly some day I will have benefited from this experience, even if I’m panhandling on the feeder road. Maybe I’m inured, vaccinated.


Packing, farewell parties, teary goodbyes in my dream this morning, and all of it happening in a movie theater while movies were playing. Not surprising. What’s odd is that the only person I remember in the dream is my friend Monica, who lives in New York.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

In Other News of Disappointment.

One of the last classes I took at UT was a seminar course in children’s literature and the history of American childhood. The professor was brilliant and fun. It was hard, but it was one of the best classes I took.

I wrote a paper about Maurice Sendak’s book, Where the Wild Things Are, discussing it as a coming out fable for homosexual boys. It was a short paper, but I think it was some of my best academic writing. My argument was original and strong, and I think the writing was fresh and engaging.

I reworked it a bit and submitted it to a couple magazines, got bites from 2 of them, and a commitment from a New York gay literary and arts quarterly to publish it in their summer issue. It was supposed to come out this month, but the journal and its publisher seem to have disappeared. He doesn’t answer any of my emails and his website has not been updated since late last winter.

This is particularly annoying because another publication was interested in the article and I turned it down.

Back Is The New Forward.

I’ve talked to my old friend and collaborator T on the phone a couple times in the last few days. I think after reading what I’ve been writing here, he was a little worried about me, which is not surprising. I’d be worried about me too if I loved me. We’ve been in close touch recently because of all the stuff that’s happening with Lizzie Borden (which I am not at liberty to discuss just yet, but soon), and we’ve been throwing around ideas for new work, since the writing part of Lizzie Borden is pretty much done.

Because I’ve hit such a hard dead end here, I’ve been thinking a lot about the trajectory of my career.

Opportunities to do good work always came to me, things landed in my lap: the Woods, Tiny Mythic, Y’all, Life in a Box.

In my early twenties, a couple years after dropping out of art school, I met B who played drums and wrote songs and was forming a new band. I tagged along, bought a guitar, taught myself a few chords, and started writing songs. I wasn’t very good, but over the years I got good.

B worked at a restaurant with some people who were starting a theater company called Tiny Mythic. They asked us to compose music for their first production, which was Strindberg’s Dreamplay. We did that, successfully I think, and then we did the next show. I left B soon after that but continued to work with those people, eventually just with T, whose sensibilities, of the directors in the company, meshed most closely with mine. We did Lizzie Borden, Frankenstein, The Scarlet Letter, and other shows, and we became good friends.

I met J through that work, indirectly. He was the recent ex-boyfriend of one of the performers in A (our adaptation of The Scarlet Letter) and a writer for a local magazine, and he came to see the show several times. We fell in love, we found that we both loved the same country gospel music, and we started writing and performing within a few months of meeting. We did that for 10 years, it took us out of New York, to Nashville, then to the road. And through a chain of circumstances too complicated to recount this afternoon, we ended up making a movie about our last year together, which I spent 2 years finishing after we separated.

One thing led to another. But Life in a Box, which of all the work I’ve done had the most promise of leading to new work, didn’t. Pretty much since then I’ve been floundering. I thought certainly I would make another film -- I’d discovered this new medium that exploited my visual, my musical, my storytelling talents, and it just all seemed to make so much sense. Now I was a filmmaker! But I couldn’t figure out how to make it happen. All my schemes came to naught. I had, I have, no shortage of ideas, but I have not been able to put together the whole operation. Turns out I am hapless when it comes to the infrastructure.

And then there is the return to theatre, which somehow snuck into the story a few years ago. I don’t want to discount the creative energy I’ve put into Lizzie Borden in the last three years. It’s been tremendous, and very satisfying artistically. I think I viewed it as an anomaly – and maybe even a step backward to keep my artist’s mind occupied while I tried to figure out the future. I guess that’s the wrong way to think about it. Maybe the return to Lizzie Borden, return to theatre, return to New York, is the direction forward. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Maybe this was all a dream.

Midnight Snack.

I just have to say that life is not all bad. I just made myself an omelet with sauteed cremini mushrooms and sharp Vermont cheddar cheese. It's almost like being in love.