Saturday, May 19, 2007

A Farm Wife's Life.

A farm wife's life would be a good life for a writer.

Today we picked up our box of produce from Johnson's Farm, and I spent a couple hours prepping vegetables: washing everything, blanching and freezing chard and green beans (keeping a few out to make a salad with red potatoes, arugula, and green beans in a mustard vinaigrette), scrubbing and paring carrots and beets. We also got asparagus, summer squash, dandelion greens, red potatoes, spring onions, fennel, broccoli, and I think that's it.

If we were completely food self-sufficient (which would not be hard in this climate, if we had the land, the time, and a big freezer), I would be doing this stuff -- gardening, prepping, cooking, putting up -- every day for quite a bit of the year, since the growing season, if you plan it right, runs year round.

So much of writing is thinking, requiring time and some measure of quiet but not the use of my hands. And then there are periods of time when not much is happening in the garden, time for typing and revising, tasks that do require my hands and more focused effort. There would even be time to tend to a couple goats for milk, a few chickens for eggs.

Friday, May 18, 2007


We have the most beautiful green beans, ever. The vines are in the narrow bed across the front of the porch, and they shade that half of the porch in the afternoon. I've been picking 6 or 8 of them a day for the last week. The more I pick, the more they grow. I used what I had accumulated in a green curry I made a few days ago, along with snap peas, turnips and rutabagas from Johnson's Farm. I also used one Thai chile (still green, but I couldn't wait) from our garden in the curry.

The snap peas, next to them, were killed off by powdery mildew, and I pulled them down a few days ago, so I think next year, since they did so well, we could plant green beans across the whole front porch.

The jalapeno plants are full of little fruit, and the poblanos have several fruit on them too. And there's one little green tomato so far.

I spent 10 hours today sitting with a friend of J.'s who has been dealing with leukemia and a bone marrow transplant for the last couple of years. Now he has some complications from the transplant, so he's been very weak and in and out of the hospital for the last week or so. He's home now, but needs someone with him most of the time.

I didn't do much all day but sit and read when he was asleep and sit and chat when he was awake, but I was exhausted when I left. When I got home, I drank a beer on the porch and then made myself a delicious omelet with some of the climbing spinach leaves, cheddar and garlic.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Dept. of Men.

I emailed Z. to see if he wants to get together soon. I had told him a few weeks ago that I needed some time off from him so I could focus on getting a few particular things done: two screenplay contest applications, the first draft of the script I've been working on (working title is now "Public Sex"), and all the admissions and financial aid stuff for U.T.

All those things are done or moot. But I haven't missed Z. a bit, and that makes me wonder what I'm doing. I was talking with J. about this and came to the conclusion that I just don't have what's necessary to create new relationships right now -- desire, stamina, emotional generosity, I don't know? -- whether friends or lovers. That's probably a natural state at my age, since most people in their forties have already established the significant relationships in their lives.

But it always gets complicated doesn't it? No wonder men lie to get sex.

Last week I went out carousing a couple of nights. Nothing wrong with that. One night, I met two guys, good friends, we talked and laughed a lot, drank a lot. The three of us went back to the one guy's house and spent the night. I'll spare you the details, but it was a lot of fun. The guy whose house it was -- he has a boyfriend, open relationship, etc. -- and I have called and missed each other a couple times. I wouldn't mind seeing him, or him and his friend, again. Why not?

I'm very good at this first part, and I sometimes wonder why I can't just do this over and over. I guess because eventually I would run out of guys to dump. (When I was younger, I would just stop returning phone calls. What an awful thing to do to someone! I'm determined to do better.)

But another night, I met another guy. This guy's story is eerily like mine. Same age, songwriter, artist/academic, writer, filmmaker, has lived in many places. We talked for a couple hours at the bar, he gave me a ride home. We talked on the phone for quite some time over the weekend, and he said he would call me today, which I'm looking forward to.

One intriguing thing about this guy is that he's circumspect when our conversation turns to making plans to see each other. At first I was a little confused by it -- does he want to see me or not? -- but I realized that he was doing exactly what I often do with guys I meet. I avoid making plans. Instead, I make plans to call and make plans. I don't think it's a case of wanting to be free in case something better comes along; it's just a case of wanting to be free.

The bar that I go to won't be around much longer. It's sitting on some very valuable downtown real estate. The area has been sort of a no man's land for years because it floods regularly, but the city is planning a major flood control project which will open several city blocks for development. It's the only gay bar in town I've been to that I have any desire to hang out in.

Just Unfortunately Sloppy Syntax or ...

Subtle Deception?
Tag line on a package of tortillas: "Traditionally Made in New Mexico"

Hospital of Horrors?!
Text on a poster for the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston: "Making life better for children with cancer"

Monday, May 14, 2007

Lizzie Borden.

Here's the New York Times review of that 1994 production. Not exactly a rave, but getting in the Times was cool. The comment about the story-telling was likely true. Traditional narrative was not a goal with the Tiny Mythic folks, and that was one of the reasons I loved working with them. The creative freedom. Still, we held ourselves to some standard of being responsible for creating an experience, a journey, for an audience, and we probably failed in some way with Lizzie Borden.

That's one reason it's so exciting to get to try again. I still don't know much about this new production, whether or not Tim will direct it, or to what extent I will be involved. But I do know that Tim and I will at least have a chance to revise, to improve the material. (The husband and wife team who have approached us about a production told us they think there are problems with the structure, which they would like us to fix.)

Tim wants me to write a couple, a few more songs. In its ALR incarnation, it was a one-act, about 45 minutes long, with I think 4 songs. The last song was an epilogue -- a post-acquittal socialite hostess Golden Age Lizzie -- a radical shift in mood and style that was fun but didn't really work, cut from the later production. For the 1994 production, I wrote 5 more songs and the whole thing got more Gothic, less campy. (Less campy, which is not to say not very campy.)

By the time of this later production, Y'all was very much underway. J. and I were touring a lot. I wrote the songs, recorded guitar and vocal demos, and dropped them off. I didn't spend much time with the cast or with Tim.

This was radically different from the first production, where Tim and I and the cast spent weeks poring over the court documents and biographical material, discussing, dramaturging the thing together before Tim and I even started writing. I was listening to a lot of Lita Ford, the Runaways, and Heart that summer, and the music reflects it. (In 1994 I was listening to more Loretta Lynn, and that probably shows in the later songs, though subtly I hope.)

It's still in the germination phase, but still I'm hoping like crazy that I'll get to spend some time in New York working on the show next year. The folks who want to do the production are talking about raising real money, so I could actually get paid. What a strange and wonderful idea.


I have a neurotic need to explain myself, to give my every utterance the proper context so I'm not misunderstood. I'm better than I used to be, but ... this sentence is a perfect example of it, so I will abandon it right now. It slows me down in so many ways. I think my phone phobia is a symptom of this neurosis. I revise and rehearse every greeting to get the maximum context into the first few words.

I've been thinking a lot about the musical Lizzie Borden play my friend Tim and I wrote and staged together in New York, which may be produced again next year. As I began blogging about it last night, I found myself unable to express the simple thoughts I was having without also writing layers and layers of history, from my involvement with Tim and the Tiny Mythic Theatre Company in the late 80s and early 90s, how I met those people through my first long-term boyfriend, who got me started playing in bands and writing music, how those experiences in the theater awoke in me the notion that I wanted to change my life, which led me to leave that boyfriend.

Everything at this late stage of my life seems to be way too entangled with a longer story, with the long story, for the telling of any small segment of it to be simple. There's too much diversity -- of geographical location, creative medium, philosophy of life, haircut -- for any part to convey the whole. I want too badly for it to make sense.

The other thing I feel slightly neurotic about -- and this is related to the above because they are both parts of a larger need of mine to feel that I have done something important with my life -- is a need to state and confirm that I have participated in history, that I have not just swum in but have contributed to the cultural stream. Simply, that my work has been important. Maybe all artists feel this, but it is very much at odds with my overarching Buddhist philosophical view of the uncertainty of things. You can take the boy out of the Judeo-Christian narrative paradigm but you can't, etc.

The way this latter thing looks is that when I talk about the Lizzie Borden piece, I want to say that it was the final show in the first season of the American Living Room festival in 1990, which was the first summer theater festival in New York. Now there are lots of them, but there was no summer theater festival season in New York before the American Living Room. What we did that summer changed New York theater. (Just to be clear, I didn't create the ALR, but I participated in many ways throughout that first summer.)

Well, there's so much more to tell about Lizzie Borden, and about everything else as well. I'll get to it. In the meantime, that's Loren Kidd with the axe. She played Lizzie in the original ALR production as well, but this photo is from the longer version produced by HERE in 1994.