Reading: “The Days Grow Short…”

In this post I discuss “The Prague Sonata” by Bradford Morrow and “The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells” by Andrew Sean Greer, .

I have read much less than usual this month for reasons joyous and not so; friends and new beginnings belonging to the former category, my continuing health saga and personal stressors belonging to the latter. The relevance of beginning a book blog entry with this self-involved I-paragraph being I have become increasingly stingy with my time and increasingly prone to dropping off to sleep during what used to be my reading time. And it’s September, not just in 2017, but, in my life — for me, on this go round, it is at least Fall, if not Winter, and so my time — what I do with it and how I think about it — is of paramount concern. Which brought September Song by Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson to mind. This lyric:

Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December
But the days grow short when you reach September
When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame
One hasn’t got time for the waiting game

Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few
September, November
And these few precious days I’ll spend with you
These precious days I’ll spend with you

I am — during these, my precious days, careful with which books I choose to share myself, my thoughts, my heart. So you can be sure if I write about one, it has been at least a pleasant companion. Otherwise, I just fold after about page 50, thank it for its efforts, and move on. I don’t write about those books because even though I didn’t enjoy them, they are the product of someone’s heart and love and good intentions (almost always) and time, and I think to say unpleasant things about books (or, most anything except the current administration and all sorts of bigotry and hatred) is more damaging and revealing about the speaker than it is about the book.

Kindness is always a better choice, and very much needed in the world these days — so I am striving to have kindness be my default, even (especially?) in those instances when rage was once my go-to.

So, here are my latest reads, both of which, as coincidence (or not) would have it, have to do with time.

The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, Andrew Sean Greer, Hardcover, 289pp, June 2013, Ecco Books

I recently read and loved Andrew Sean Greer’s latest novel, Less [which I talked about here] and so I determined to explore his backlist, thus, this 2013 book.

In 1985 Greta’s beloved brother, Felix, has died. Soon after, frustrated by Greta’s lack of energy for anything but mourning, her partner, Nathan, departs. Despite medication and the support of her devoted aunt, Ruth, Greta is inconsolable. She agrees to electro-convulsive therapy, the first treatment of which finds her awakened in 1918.

In 1918 she wakes with her 1985 consciousness, but is somehow connected to another version of herself which is both different and the same, surrounded by the same — but again, different — people in her life from 1985. And 1918-Greta is also having treatment for depression which sends her(them?) to the 1941 version of the three (one?) of them.

It’s a little complicated and we only hear inside 1985 Greta’s head as she tries to change the lives of the 1918 and 1941 versions of herself and others, which, it seems, the 1918 and 1941 versions of Greta are also doing as they hop around in time.

I am a huge fan of Andrew Sean Greer’s writing. It is rich in heart and forgiveness, insight into human nature, and the ability to evoke both the frailty and strength, foibles and fine points, light and dark of characters and situations. In this ambitiously structured novel he draws parallels between  the massive, tragic, and mostly needless loss of lives from AIDS, the 1918 flu pandemic, and World War II; in doing so he creates many beautiful images, heartbreak, and the lyrical, near poetic sentences I so loved in Less. Late in the story, speaking about her ex-lover (in 1985’s iteration) Nathan, Greta says this:

Those separate men, the different men he was, in different worlds. Perhaps it’s because I knew Nathan so well, and knew his moods; of him thinking beside me: so quiet! Of him silencing the alarm so I could sleep another hour: so kind! Of him reading some infuriating news in the paper: so angry! I could roll them all into one ball and put it in my brain as one person. Even before my travels, I had met and lived with these different men: the quiet one, the kind one, the angry one. Just as Nathan had lived with those same men himself. For others are not the only ones forced to face our other selves; above all, we must face them. On my last visit to 1942, Felix showed me a photograph of the two of us. It had been taken the week before. And while I knew it was not me, I could not tell which one it was. Perhaps one day they will invent a camera to capture the fleeting self — not the soul, but the self— and we can truly see which one we were, on any particular day, and mark the shifting lives we lead that we pretend belong to one person alone. Why is it so impossible to believe: that we are as many headed as monsters, as many armed as gods, as many hearted as the angels?

It’s something like the aha-moment/magic discovery of the book for Greta, or, the discovery of magic, when she begins to comprehend all the possible Me’s who exist in each I. And while I sometimes found parts of the narrative to be difficult to follow, and here and there a little self-help-y prosaic and banal, even those passages, like the above quoted, were grounded in wonder and hope, two elements of which there can never be too much and which make a fine foundation for any novel.

The Prague Sonata, Bradford Morrow, Hardcover, 528pp, October 2017, Atlantic Monthly Press

[I requested a copy of this novel and was sent one. I do not know the author, and have no connection to the publisher, I found the synopsis intriguing and so asked to be included in the list of bloggers/book people who got advance reader copies.]

I have not read any of Bradford Morrow’s eight previously published works of fiction, so I came to the Prague Sonata fresh, unencumbered by expectations other than this — like The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, about which I just wrote — the novel was blurbed and praised by Michael Cunningham, a writer whose work I very much admire, and in synopsis it sounded like a thick, rich, sprawling epic of old school heft.

That, it was. Its five-hundred-plus pages play a score of emotional richness, its themes and motifs introduced, reiterated and expanded, crescendo after crescendo — each memorable and developed in singularity — merging, melding to become a whole which has been artfully puzzled together into something symphonic, seamless, an entirely unique composition meticulously created from its various counter-themes into a harmony of a textured, layered, masterful epic.

It is early 20th century when Otylie’s father dies, a casualty of war, having left his nine-year-old daughter who he’d been training to be an accomplished pianist with a music manuscript she knew to be his most prized possession. Otylie swears never again to sing or play music and in 1939 Prague when war again intrudes into her life, she divides her father’s treasure in three, knowing by then its provenance may be historically important making it a valuable artifact she does not wish to lose to the invading German beast-Nazis. She keeps one movement for herself, sending another by messenger to her husband who has disappeared into the underground resistance movement, and a third to friends.

Fast forward to the beginning of the 21st century when neophyte music historian Meta Taverner — whose father in a very different way had encouraged and ended her career as a concert pianist — is given the middle movement of the sonata by Irena, friend of Otylie who carried the manuscript out of Czechoslovakia when she survived the death camps, and now, in New York, chooses Meta to unearth the first and third movements, thus fulfilling the promise Irena made to Otylie, whose fate she does not know.

All of this plot is performed in the first fifty pages and advanced and refined in the next 475 during which Meta pursues her quest to make Otylie’s sonata whole again and, too, to discover its composer. The narrative moves back and forth through time following both Otylie and Meta in their separate trajectories until those paths melt into one another in a finale of rhapsodic consonance.

Bradford Morrow interweaves many themes through each time period: Music. War. Love stories. Friendship. Truth and Lies for Good and Evil. Ambition. Parent-Child. And others. There are elements of mystery-writing, tinges of gothic villainy and distress, romance novels, and all of this delivered in an enrapturing literary fiction format that transports the reader into other worlds. It is tempting to speed through to discover the fates of the characters, but then one would miss the abundance of historical detail, musical scholarship, and well-crafted prose. Listen to this excerpt (borrowed from the Grove Atlantic website for the novel, [CLICK HERE]):

With reverent delicacy, she turned the pages one by one, eyes traveling across the busy staves that filled each leaf. This wasn’t going to be easy to play. Unaware she was doing so, she hummed an occasional phrase, tapped her toe gently on the floor. Meta might have sat down with the manuscript at her piano and performed it then and there. But she didn’t want to listen to it until she’d had time to study the piece, learn what its composer was saying.

This was not your everyday second movement of a sonata, despite Irena’s recollecting that’s what it probably was. Brazen in its initial runs, the music settled now and again, only to move away into knotty clusters of sixteenth notes, like an impish acrobat who pretends to teeter off his tightrope high above the crowd, flails his arms as if he’s about to fall, until, nimbly, in slow motion, he moves on.

Then, a plunge off a cliff—everything shifted to blacker registers. Gone was the acrobat. Gone were the playful, bucolic pace and tone of the earlier passage, which was, it now occurred to Meta, a feint, a dramatic setup. The meat, the soul of the dolorous passage had such a rich, slow sadness to it that, surprised, she turned back to the opening and reread the movement up to this radical shift in mood.

With its moments of staggering power and slyness, the music seemed as fresh that day, to this young woman in her barbell flat, as it must have sounded when it was conceived. Who was the conceiver, though? And where were the fore and aft of this noteworthy craft?

Lovely, yes? Musical and poetic and evocative and compelling; which neatly sums up Bradford Morrow’s The Prague Sonata.


And so, I finish here, exiting to get back to cherishing and contemplating time in these Septembers — the current month, and the Fall of my life. Fall has always been my favorite season with its voluntary shedding of its summer clothes and the faith in the promise of Spring renewal such shedding implies. I leave you with the inimitable and brilliant Miss Betty Buckley and her version of Weill and Anderson’s September Song. Enjoy my dears, and please, don’t waste your time on the waiting game. Much love and light and, my dear ones, truly, thank you for spending these precious days with me, I am so grateful you read me, it has brought me much joy. Now, here I am, going.



Old(er) Man . . . that would be me . . .

FIRST (through SEVENTH) OF ALLS . . .

lange how much tragedy can one woman endure

I’m feeling a bit . . . GET ME A GUN, BLANCHE!

Honestly, this aging bullshit. Let me say, I am ready to die and wish it would just happen.

First of all, I am soon going to have to move again and I’ve neither the money nor the will to do so. I just can’t face packing and carrying and all that shit again. It’s exhausting and one always does it alone, it seems. (So, if you’ve a situation wherein is required a fellow with no employable skills, but who can clean like a demon, loves pets and old people, and has all the charm and elan of those Walkers of old – AND it has a two bedroom abode which has a roommate floor plan – meaning, the bedrooms don’t share walls, washer and dryer, parking, preferably a den/office, and is near 1000 a month – or can be traded for fellow’s cleaning/sitting.walking skills – let me know. But soon, I’ve ordered my copy of the Peaceful Pill handbook.)

BEING AN OLD MAN SUCKS – and sixteen year olds are taking over the world.

Second of all, I’ve neither the stamina nor fortitude to survive another election cycle. The world is just too damned noisy. I can’t stand the drone of people, TV, endless blather. I need silence and solitude. (Peaceful Pills, again.)

a-single-man-gifThird of all, I don’t know what to make of being approached by tatted, pierced, usually married (well, wearing rings anyway) young men and smooth, even younger, naked men at the gym – I see my sagging ass, third-rate body, not-very-pretty face – and I never know their names and why me? I mean, do I look like the kind of person who does shower/sauna hook-ups? And, see, THIS is the ONLY sort of man I attract – the kind who wishes to remain anonymous. It’s kind of lonely.

Fourth of all, I’m exhausted from being sick for so long (and old) and so my reading is being cut into because I keep nodding off – and why WHY can’t I – if I’ve got to nod – do the BIG NOD and be done with it?

bullying 2Fifth of all, I hate it when one engages with people on Twitter and they ignore you. I’m talking about mutual-follow people, not those I am stalking. Twitter sometimes makes me feel like the unpopular kid in high school – again – which ties in nicely with third of all – because in high school I was also fucking around with guys who didn’t want anyone to know they were fucking around with me. Although, then, my ass wasn’t saggy and I had only one chin.

Sixth of all, being at (some days at, other days near-ish) my goal weight is not changing the entire world in the way I had hoped. You know, like Christmas Morning disappointment?

Seventh of all – well, there is just too much ALL and too many stops along the way – I will spare you any more. (Right now.)


Yesterday. Morning. Readying to cross town to retrieve my aged Mother for a day of hairdo-ing and mater-genda, I walked down the slightly-sloped drive to get a better view of the street, needing to see if the neighborhood had put out trashcans. Monday was a holiday so there had been no collection and while I have lived here three years, I am, technically, a visitor (and have I mentioned that I need to move – again – and can’t face it?), and though I knew there was a second trash pick-up day, I didn’t know what it was. I stepped off the drive, into the yard, to get a better angle and somehow landed in a slight hole, the slightness of which did not stop me from twisting my ankle, falling to the ground, twisting my left knee, scraping both knees and right hip as I rolled down the very slight hill, backpack firmly in place.

Should anyone be interested: a backpack does seem to break a fall, but when filled with the four books one is carrying to fill the downtime while Mother shops and has her hair teased and tortured, it is not a soft, loving fall-breakage. Once again, I am bruised by my hardbacks.

fallenI am an old man. It hurts. The ankle, knees, scrapes, hip, bruises, and embarrassment. But, mostly, the fear. I didn’t see the hole. It wasn’t much of a hole, probably didn’t even qualify as “hole” but, rather, an indentation or a dip. And I fell. Hard. And rolled. Far. I mean, it is funny now but this is how people break hips. I didn’t see this coming. And, I am pretty much alone in life. When I fall and can’t get up – there isn’t going to be anyone there to lift me.

I spent hours with my Mom, which I do, a lot, I have spent lots of hours with lots of people doing what they wanted, doing what they needed, taking care of, holding up, helping with their dreams and agendas – and, again, when I fall, when I have an agenda, there isn’t going to be anyone to lift me, to serve it. There is never anyone to pack my boxes. I’m always doing the packing and the lifting and the snow clearing and the – where the hell is that Peaceful Pill book?

The fall scared me. And I’m not going to talk about it. Instead, the following things.

A PROPOSAL … and Tyne Daly

I think marriage is ridiculous. The need to codify, the need to name, the need to have church or state validate, it all seems like over-sharing and boasting to me. Plus, I have seen in my long  life maybe three relationships that were even close to unions in which I’d consider participating. Okay, I’m a curmudgeonly, bitter old man. I will give you this. I think romantic love is a myth and the emphasis we place on it a mistake and a patriarchal plot to keep us all too busy to see what the men in charge are getting away with. I also think monogamy is a joke and foolish aim. Even, however, having said all that, this on-stage proposal at “IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU” (is that still open?) had me near tears – but I think that’s because they got to be jumped up and down for and hugged by Tyne Daly. Tyne Freaking Daly!


But enough of the curmudgeon for a minute or two. Here. I love LOVE LOVE BBC America’s “Orphan Black”. Tatiana Maslany is my spirit animal. If you haven’t seen the show, watch it. Tatiana plays clones. She is an amazing actress. Each character is so specific and different, it is a miraculous feat. She should have multiple Emmys by now. Instead, she’s never even been nominated. My favorite of her characters (at the moment) is Alison. Crazed soccer mom. Look:

Orphan Black Alison 1

Orphan Black Alison 2

Orphan Black Alison 3

Orphan Black Alison 4

You really, REALLY need to watch this show to appreciate this underwear dancing being done by two suburban former-vanilla-ites, now reveling in the money they’ve accumulated by drug dealing. Hilarious.

Tatiana also seems to be a fantastic human being. Listen:

Right? Love her.

GREY GARDENS … with Betty Buckley?!?!?

I am a well-known freak for all things Grey Gardens.

(Aside: No. You are NOT well-known at all. For anything. You can’t even get published. You were never famous. In fact, despite calling yourself a “book blogger” – your BIGGEST hits STILL come from people looking for pictures of Derek Hough and the Jonas Brothers naked. Life. Is. Not. Funny. You are not. Known. So. Shut. Up.)

I saw the Broadway production six times, including closing day. I was (am) obsessed. It reminded me of the home in which my aunt and grandparents lived, the family home, Libertytown, subject of my great (whatever – fuck you) unpublished novel, and, Little Edie with her outfits of torn pantyhose reminded me of my dearest aunt, Sissie, who was a little eccentric and on whom I have modeled myself. Although, I cannot carry off pantyhose.

(Aside: NOT TRUE. You looked fabulous in pantyhose both times you played Sylvia St. Croix in RUTHLESS. Many MANY people complimented you on your legs.)

And, I am also a HUGE Betty Buckley fan. I have seen her in “Sunset Boulevard” and in concert, more than once. SO, to read that Ms. Buckley will be doing “Grey Gardens” in Sag Harbor. OH. MY. HEAVENS. HERE’S THE ARTICLE – CLICK IT!

There then. I got my mind off moving. Whoops. Back again.

Bye kids. Happy weekending.

Dowager Weekend

Zeitbites Friday … Freaks, Bad Weeks, and Tweets

Come look at the freaks . . .

It was announced this week that the beloved cult musical, “Side Show” will be returning to Broadway in its revised form [click HERE for NYTimes article]. I am second to no one in my love for the myth and magic of the original production of “Side Show” (although, when did SIDESHOW become SIDE SHOW?) and its inclusion in the pantheon of failed, big and brilliantly scored musicals alongside Merrily We Roll Along and Mack and Mabel. Once, in the long ago when I still had my beloved and much abused theatre company filled mostly with young (very young) people and did uniquely twisted, relevant, productions only a few bothered to attend, I helmed a production in which I, and my musical theatre illuminati partner in revisionist crime, Alison, re-wrote and re-arranged much of the show, making recitativo into spoken dialogue and cleverly using reflective materials on sets and costumes, catching glimmers of light which here and there flashed uncomfortably into the eyes of the audience, until the final reprise of “Come Look at the Freaks” when the ensemble sneakily dashed and turned on the house with a wall of mirrors to hammer home the point that we are all the freaks — no one ever called our productions subtle.

The revisions that have been made to “Side Show” now — in my humble “I have seen every musical since dirt” opinion — are both too much and not enough. The second act — as always — is still not strong enough. Messrs. Condon and Krieger and Russell, you are welcome to my mirror idea, and I will be happy to assist you. But, having seen the Kennedy Center production, I (and the others with whom I saw it) just don’t think it is a compelling enough re-dreaming to succeed, and I fear that if it fails again, it will fall into the so-so musical category rather than where it belongs, happily a legend among the Glorious Failures. Compare the revival to the original, here:

And now, the original twins, Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner:

I think that tells you pretty much everything you need to know.

That damn cat . . .

In addition to the house (and dogs) I have been sitting this week and the multiple trips to various doctors and airports and drugstores (oh my) I have also been checking in on a cat. I confess, I am a dog person. But I have stayed with this cat before on overnights, although in those cases, her sister dogs were there and this time they are not but I was warned she would be in a foul mood having been left alone in the house. Wow. Angry Kitty managed to urine-SOAK the New York Times padded round her box (I don’t think it was a comment on the level of journalism, although I suppose the cat could be a Wall Street Journal fan?) and, somehow, position her nether-regions up against the wall in order to defecate DOWN THE WALL? What? I spent about 45 minutes scrubbing, reloading newspapers and litter (although the evil furball had barely used the box) and looking to find the demonic feline so as to warn her that this sort of behavior would – in all likelihood – earn her the death penalty when her owners returned. She was nowhere to be found. Perhaps she ran away from home? Not a bad idea. I might try it myself if things continue along the path they’ve been going this week . . .

Techno-cursed . . .

The cat isn’t the only thing seeming to piss and shit all over areas of my life this week. First of all, there is HORRID cell coverage out here on the lake, so it takes for-fucking-ever to send a Tweet and requires running from one to another location in the house trying to catch bars. Consequently, I have had – shall we call them – some communication issues. Too, twice this week my new laptop has been acting up, making me unable to go on-line, the mouse behaves oddly, all sorts of things go wonky-wanky-winky and then, just as mysteriously and suddenly, it all straightens out. Bottom line, I’m sure it’s me but my adaptation to it is not going as well or as quickly as I’d hoped. And my phone has been behaving strangely as well. Then, two days ago, my car started doing that “I’m having trouble accelerating” thing again. And, final straw, yesterday, as I was driving to and from my various assigned tasks, I placed the mix-cd I long ago made myself that opens with Betty Buckley singing “When There’s No One” from yet another legendary failed musical, “Carrie” – and don’t you know, it started skipping and stalling and – well, I started to cry. I tried to calm myself down. I tried another cd. Same thing. I tried another cd port. Same thing. Now, I can’t have music? Remember when I had music?

That’s Alison playing for me. She gave me music for so many years. She is one of my very, very dearest. And Cody filmed me. I cried a lot that day. They both held me up.

When I was younger, I could never wear a watch. It would stop. Lose time. Gain time. Whatever. I suppose that I could attribute everything that has happened of late to my oddly powerful electromagnetic vibrations — it all fits in with my “I DON’T BELONG HERE ON EARTH – I’M A MISTAKE – I GOT OFF ON THE WRONG REALITY” — I’m going with that. I can’t talk about it. I think my Tweets this week tell the tale better.

Tweets to goodbye by . . . I’ll let my Tweeting tell the story . . .

  • I wonder if you ever regret having casually thrown me away & disregarded my feelings & topped it off by making me a villain. Are you sorry?
  • How Gay Am I? Garland in “Strike Up The Band” 8-10 on TCM. “TEEN WOLF” 10 on MTV. With doses of Cabernet, chest pains,& regret. Marry me?
  • My blog entry today has cost me 5 followers? What? How is “Yesterday did not go as planned. . .” a breakup w/me post?
  • Story of my life. Text from man: “I want you to come over but have to wait for my GF to leaf.” Reply: “What sort of houseplant is she?” FML
  • I’m thinking Bette Davis from “Little Foxes” (although I prefer Tallulah) & if you have to ask “Which lines” we cannot be friends.
  • Apropos my mood: RAGE/MELANCHOLY/SELF-PITY/REGRET. Remember I was almost famous as SWEENEY TODD?
  • If I told the story, no one would believe it. Which might be a good thing. Please, can I get to “The End”? So exhausted.
  • Today: Car cd player, computer, both BLEW the hell up in malfunctions and I was “shamed” on Twitter and in person. FML. So done
  • Perhaps my channelling of extreme psychic electromagnetic love/light/energy is causing all my electronics to explode? Let’s go with that.
  • Perhaps that is also what caused the awful cat I’m checking in on to pee all over the SundayNYTimes and poop ON THE WALL? What a week. FML
  • And my latest non-significant-other genius to text: “I didn’t get the 5 messages you sent.” Reply: “Yet, somehow you knew there were 5?”
  • Or, my Mother to say to me today about my dead father; “He was a genius, like you; so sad neither of you ever used it.” FML.
  • I do most heartily apologize to myself for decades of having allowed myself to be treated like crap by people I thought superior to me.
  • I wish I thought I could make it up to me but, sadly, I don’t think I can ever forgive myself. Therefore, I’m ending all communication w/me.
 . . . and so, here I am . . . going . . .
Oh, and did I mention that someone backed into me in a parking lot to start the week off?  Ram bam slam . . . somebody, get me outta here . . . to where I am . . . going . . .




#2ndSundayInJune … 2014 part one

I am an unmitigated, unrepentant, uncontrollably emotional person. I weep and laugh with great vigor, unembarrassed, much preferring to be the kind of person who is without walls, open to all the feelings and thoughts and expressions of others, empathic and empathetic to the point of actual physical response, rather than being cold and disconnected.

TONYI revel in my emotional excess. Yes. Today is a HUGE day. It’s the second Sunday in June, which means it is time for the French Open and The Tony Awards.

As if those two things were NOT ENOUGH each in and of themselves, today is the one year anniversary of my having stopped smoking! I made it a year. I really didn’t think I would. Congratulations, Charlie. Not only did I make it, but I weigh way less today than I did last year on this date and I am in training for a 150 mile, two day bike ride to Conquer Cancer (have you pledged me yet? CLICK HERE TO HELP! PLEASE?).

So, having a Tony Party. Of course, just me and C and D, and I have already prepped the food. It’s macaroni and cheese (C requested that) and shrimp and cheeses and a vegetable tray and chicken wings and — of course — A BEEF STICK. In my life, every special event for which junk food is allowed is ALLLLLLLL ABOUT THE BEEF STICK! And I am not even being a little bit metaphorical. I love meat. I love trashy by-products mixed with meat and shaped into things called “Summer Sausage”. I love those little Hickory Farms beef nugget-y things. I just can’t help it.

I will start weeping AS SOON as the Tony Awards begin, and I will be weeping and screaming and angry and passionate and full of regret about the life I didn’t make for myself and the life I did, and remembering past Tony parties — and the years lacking them, and — well, a lot of weeping. The Tony Awards are like the SUPERBOWL for Theatre Geeks. IN FACT — I’ve started a Twitter Hashtag: #TheatreGeekSuperbowl. You’re welcome. NOTHING IS BETTER THAN A BROADWAY MUSICAL — oh, read this, posted by Jason Robert Brown and Betty Buckley and ME on Twitter: YOU HATE MUSICALS BECAUSE YOU ARE DEAD INSIDE.

Which won’t even be the first time today. LOL. Friday night I went a little too all-out bacchanal even for me, and I was feeling a little pickled on Saturday, and so, for the first time since I started serious training, I didn’t gym or bike or anything else really. So, I knew I had to go to the gym today. I started watching the French Open, and when I was reasonably assured that Rafael Nadal was going to win, I headed to the gym to watch the end there while I did my hour on the elliptical.

Bad idea.

rafael nadalWhen Rafa won and started weeping, guess what fool started doing his heave-hiccough-y-trying not to sob too openly- thing while on the elliptical? ME! Luckily, there was almost no one at the gym, so I wasn’t too much of a spectacle, just one guy — fairly good-looking — gave me the fisheye. But, turns out, my openly weeping must have turned him on — after I had finished my workout, I headed to the locker room and it was blessedly, delightfully empty, as was the sauna, so I could recline and not worry about anything — pretending it was my very own. Nice. Then fisheye guy followed me in. And hit on me.

2ndSundayInJune …. best day of the year.



Here comes the sun(set) … come look at the freak(show) …

sunset blvdFor the second week in a row this blog has broken visitor AND view records three days (so far) – I don’t know who you are, but I’m glad that this faded, failed, delusional diva’s scabrous scribbling about just this, my life, and nothing else, is entertaining all you wonderful people out there in the dark.

I’m ready for my close-up now, even though I’ve been through de’mill(e). It would be even MORE exciting if you would follow me on Twitter [CLICK HERE: MIRACLECHARLIE on TWITTER] and SHARE me with your friends. I know that my blog entries are rather LONGER than people say they ought to be — but here’s the thing, I come from another time, really. I’m of a different era and zeitgeist and … well, perhaps it is NOT that my BLOGS are BIG, but, rather, that your ATTENTION SPAN is too small! Yes, that’s it. I am big! It’s the attention spans that have gotten small. Oh dear . . . I’m fading more and more into this imaginary world of mine, follow me quickly, I haven’t much time left, you see . . .

gif sunset blvd2. . . because it’s fast approaching my birthday(month). I’ve no intention of discussing the details – although, there’s nothing tragic with being fifty, unless you’re trying to be 25 — but, I heard somewhere that stars are ageless, and I used to be BIG – before going to the gym and staving myself made me smaller – and so I freely exploit the “subtract 10” theory when it comes to age (and weight) (holy crap, I’m feeling awfully parenthetical today) I still LOVE having a ridiculous to-do to-done about and around my birthday. Once upon a time, I would make a solo Manhattan pilgrimage each year and celebrate there. Not alone, but, rather, at the Algonquin Hotel, surrounded by the spirit and energy of all those who had stayed there before, and, my dear aunt, Sissie, who had never gotten to stay there but who had in her decline, immobilized by blindness and illness in a senior-facility, made me promise not to wait until it was too late — as she had — to “visit the Algonquin”.

I think she meant something else, something more. She had spent her life — mostly — doing for others, serving the needs of others, sacrificing her wants for the wants of others, and to the casual and uninformed observer it might have seemed she was living off of the largesse of others, but that was not the case. Without her, many of those “others” would not have been able to have the freedoms and lives they had, and many, like me, would never have come to know themselves without Sissie being there to encourage and see and support us in our quest for self-dom. The only self she got was the one who put herSELF aside so others could thrive and bloom – she never got to be in love, she never got to go all the places she wanted to go, she put away her own scribbling and exploring so as to take care of others, make others happy. She saw what I was doing, recognized how unhappy and unfulfilled and unseen I was, and felt — I think — that I was her greatest project, the work of her life, and if I ended up as miserable as she had become at the end, she would have failed.

sunset blvd gifI promised her I would go. I did. And don’t you know she was right. I should have gone. And too, rather than get that and understand it, the people who claimed to love me didn’t “get it” or see me and celebrate it, rather, they resented that what I needed and wanted and deserved for ME, putting me first once in a while, cracked the crazy-mirror into which they looked each day like Snow White’s wicked queen asking “Who’s the ONLY person who matters at all?”

Trust me, Snow White I am not and never have been, but I also don’t eat any apples proffered. And I am ALWAYS on the lookout for dwarves eager to take me in and party.

Speaking of, Ryan Murphy has announced that the upcoming season of American Horror Story is going to be called FreakShow. I am a HUGE fan of carnivals, sideshows and freaks — as in Come Look at the … from the musical SideShow … which I never got to see on Broadway, the actual non-seeing of which was the event that prompted Sissie to give me the “don’t wait for the Algonquin” lecture and extract my promise. I used to go visit her on Thanksgiving morning and watch the parade — well, I watched, she listened while I described it — and when SideShow was in the parade and I was describing Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner and weeping because I couldn’t see the show — Sissie started in.

I’m expecting big things from Ryan Murphy on this. And given that he is PRACTICALLY my spiritual doppelgänger and has a fondness for musical theatre divas as deeply embedded in his DNA as do I, it would NOT surprise me (feel free to take this idea, Ryan) if he hires the Ripley and Skinner to play the aging Hilton Sisters who were still alive in the 1950’s when the show is rumored to be set. PLEASE!?!?!

Speaking of SideShow, I was informed last night that I am to keep the date of July 6 open as I will be seeing the tour of the revival of the show at the Kennedy Center that night! HUZZAH!

But before then, I’ve a LOT of birthday partying to which I must attend. For example, next Friday BEGINS the Month of fun. I am seeing CHER in concert!  Yes, it’s true. As if that wasn’t enough, I am being taken out to dinner beforehand at Voltaggio’s D.C. restaurant, PROOF. SO EXCITED!

Then, later in the month, making a daytrip to NYC with a group of my nearest and dearest friends for two — yes, TWO Broadway shows in one day! Seeing Jason Robert Brown’s new musical, The Bridges of Madison County, and Terrensunset boulevardce McNally’s new play, Mothers and Sons. YEE-EFFING-HA!

And then, in early May (which- technically – is outside the birthday month, but, OH WELL) I am being taken to see Megan Hilty at the Kennedy Center. I mean, really, could a birthday month be much better for a dilapidated, desiccated diva descending that final staircase, confessing his sins and nearing death?

MAX, WHERE AM I? WHERE THE FUCK AM I, MAX? And when is Joe Gillis coming back? I wish I’d had the good sense to shoot the bastard — but, unlike in the film, he never really had the balls to turn his back on me and walk away. He just sort of snuck out and pretended he wasn’t going. LIGHTS! CAMERAS! STAIR-FUCKING-CASE!

(Do I REALLY have to tell you AGAIN about the time I saw Miss Betty Buckley in SUNSET BOULEVARD – and how kind she was to me in the alley afterward? OR HOW I HAVE TWICE SEEN HER IN CONCERT AND DECIDED – though I do not believe in God or Heaven – that if I DID – it would be an eternity of Miss Buckley singing.)




ZeitBites: Beauty. Brains. Billionaires. And Anderson Cooper.

avoidanceI have to stop reading the news.

Avoidance has apparently always been my primary method of coping, although, true to form, I didn’t realize just how pathological my denial until the past few years. I took action, self-therapized and thought I had come to face some truths, had managed to correct my clinical escapism, only to discover I have – again – immersed myself in make-believe and blindness.

I’m not going to think about it. LOL. Which is what I do. Or, rather, don’t. For example, I haven’t turned on NPR or television news or picked up a paper or perused web-sources much in the past week because I can’t bear the deluge of CPAC reporting. Sadly, I was unable to avoid Sarah Palin’s exercise in Seussian copyright infringement, which is just the sort of thing I wanted NOT to see.

It disturbed me. As did a TEDxYouth Talk given by Caroline Heldman, the link to which was Tweeted by Betty Buckley. I love and adore Betty Buckley (Follow her HERE on TWITTER). She is kind beyond measure to her fans and followers, offering pleasant thank-yous and acknowledgments for our fan-Tweets. So, I click her links. Like this one (CLICK HERE TO FOLLOW THE LINK) which leads to the talk referenced above, all about the culture of objectification:

There are a number of incredibly valid and disturbing points in this talk, but, too, it does those things I find disturbing about so much media and in the work of so many pundits and columnists and religionists and politicians: it uses absolutes and extremes and selective exampling and floating, nascent point-supporting statistics of unknown provenance to make its points – none of which I am arguing or disputing – because I haven’t researched them, but the USE of which – by ANYONE – make me tune out, or, at the very least, suspicious.

I don’t know how – as she claims – we see 5000 ads a day. If each ad is even five seconds long, that’s 25,000 seconds. I’m bad at math, but, 25,000 seconds equals 416 minutes, which equals almost 7 hours a day of “being exposed” to commercials. I don’t doubt that in the effort to monetize every activity in the entire world we are under constant bombardment – for example, I spend a lot of time rejecting ads in my Twitter feed and I left Facebook, in part, because of target marketing, and I can see that I am being marketed at on nearly every website I visit when ads for books or shows on which I once clicked show up – so, maybe, I guess, I am spending seven hours a day looking at ads, but, wow. I don’t spend seven hours a day total on line, tv, radio, so, I think not.

All of which obscures the point Caroline Heldman was making about the culture of objectification in which we live. But, that’s why I don’t trust ANY media. Why it’s difficult for me. This kind of detail catches my attention and the inner obfuscation begins and the larger point is missed because I’m so busy obsessing on some minor detail, and, VOILA, my life of AVOIDANCE.

And, here’s the thing, objectification is not only happening to women, it’s happening now to everyone. There are standards of “beauty” and physical perfection being promulgated which are virtually impossible to meet. My gym is FILLED with teen boys (and grown up men) trying to sculpt themselves into porno-looking guys.

Go on CraigsList or a dating site, or, hell, Facebook or Twitter or (name the social media site) and there it is: Proof. But I don’t think this can be blamed on media or tech. The aspirational curation of one’s image has been going on since time began; its delivery systems may have evolved and changed, but the phenomenon has ALWAYS existed. The media reflects US – the culture – not really the other way around, which is why I avoid so much of the media. When CPAC is a reflection of the culture, I would rather wait it out until the culture changes.Hiding

And it will, eventually. And I would like to think that SOME DAY I would be attractive to a huge cohort BECAUSE I have an I.Q. in the genius range and am well-read and erudite and witty and know about the Algonquin Round Table. But, uhm, I won’t hold my breath. The Algonquin was bought by Marriott, and check out the list of billionaires in the world and other than J.K.Rowling, not a lot of writers on there and certainly none whose oeuvre is serious literary fiction. But, uhm, as reported by Joe. My. God (CLICK HERE FOR HIS BLOG)., designer Michael Kors was added to the list this year. He sells beauty. Not brains. It’s made him a billionaire.

Me. I mean - Anderson Cooper.

Me. I mean – Anderson Cooper.

So, yes, objectification sucks. I know. I can’t look at myself in a mirror because I am not pretty enough. But before you start talking about destroying the paradigm for a new model, instead of supplying us with lots of facts and figures about what has been and is and the number of ads we see each day, you’d better have some realistic idea about what that new model of reality is going to be.

I’d love to live in a culture without mirrors, where my I.Q. made me a catch on the level of Brad Pitt or George Clooney . . . but, like I said, not gonna hold my breath. And so, until then, guess I’ll keep lying about my age and my weight and using a modified Anderson Cooper shot as my “pic” – yeah, that’s right. What? At least he’s smart.

Oscar Weekend w/ Sebastian and Charlie: A Hate Story (Part 2)

Your intrepid – or, insipid and insane – blogger has stopped drinking again. Well, in any event, he hasn’t had a drink since Friday night’s debauch with DB which he described in the previous entry. Sadly, it is not the only withdraw he has had to withstand this weekend, and, apparently, these multiple shocks to his system have resulted in the manifestation of multiple psychopathies including writing about himself in the third person and the re-emergence of his multiple, the English and erudite and snarkily cruel, Sebastian (CLICK HERE to read about Sebastian’s first appearance). (He’s a Brit, so he puts the periods outside the parentheses).

Well, I watched the Oscars last night.I’m house-sitting at a place with HBO, so, it was a struggle to decide because there was my boyfriend, Russell Tovey, on HBO in Looking. And, his play just closed in England and he’d Tweeted out another shot of himself in his underwear and  . . . well, LOOK:

Tovey, Russell Pass Instagram

I mean, you can see why I was torn? But, I watched the Oscars.

I had to; there was going to be a 75th Anniversary Tribute to Judy Garland’s The Wizard of Oz at which Joey Luft was going to join his sisters, Lorna Luft and Liza Minnelli, and, I mean, who in the world wouldn’t want to see that? See it, I did. I thought Pink singing Over The Rainbow was – well, the thing is, I thought it was incredibly sincere and deeply felt, but, you just don’t breathe between syllables of words and in the middle of phrases that are all one thought. You just don’t. That said, I was weeping – not just a little – but, rather, out of control heaving. And then came a text from DB. One word: “Crying?”

ENOUGH. This is Sebastian. DB is hardly psychic. It was the sob heard round the world as every aging bender, poofter and queen dissolved predictably when the original over-the-rainbow role-model of psychotic vulnerability and drug addiction was feted by the homo-mafia run film industry by trotting out her trio of troubled progeny, clearly so manic and maladjusted they weren’t even allowed ON THE STAGE, but, instead, safely displayed – out of microphone range – in all their derangement in the audience. When they were asked to stand up, the camera quickly cut away before the worldwide audience bore witness to the blue-haired (and not in the dignified way) one – dressed in a sheath dyed to match the streak in her hair, an outfit seemingly designed by the raised-from-the-dead Halston, meant to double as a body-bag when she dropped dead from cocaine overdose at the after-party.

Stop it. This is why I don’t like to let him out. English people can be so cruel. I promised myself as I watched and after that I would NOT be mean and snarky and vitriolic. And then, John Travolta came on and introduced Idina Menzel. Or, as he called her, Adele Dazim. WTF?

It was too much for me, even when I was sober. Or, especially when I was sober? I IMMEDIATELY Tweeted: “Maybe #JohnTravolta isn’t gay if he can’t even say #IdinaMenzel”

I thought it was pretty funny. It was RT-ed by a few people. Until it was stolen by a New York actor type without attribution and suddenly RT-ed by all sorts of out-of-my-league-ish people. Which pissed me off and made me sad. But, it didn’t make me drink. And, I also didn’t feel too badly about having said it as Twitter exploded with New York-y type musical theatre diva-folk going wild about the Travoltalk pronunciation. Betty Buckley, Laura Benanti, Audra McDonald, etc. So. There. I forgive myself.

OH FUCK FORGIVENESS. Sebastian here again. Stop with the git-fairy, aspirational toff shite. He’s a total mess since Saturday. He knew that the going was coming. Enlistments only last so long. Then people move on. It came. The ending. It wasn’t as if there was any commitment other than temporary comfort. So, now he’s left with a picture, finally, and a name he has promised never to say out loud – at least they finally shared the truth – and one more sad story only he and one other person knows, along with a collection of texts and emails, the syntax and spelling and grammar of which alone should make him weep. And this all comes of having spent too much of his youth wanting to be like Judy and too much of his adulthood following the likes of Adele Dazim. No more ballads, Charles. Get a grip. Or, start drinking again. Or, for fuck’s sake, throw out the Starbucks cup he drank from Saturday that you’re saving and go out and FIND someone like Russell Tovey – you know, WHO IS NOT ASKING TO BE SAVED AND IS ACTUALLY ABLE TO LOVE OUT LOUD?

… insomnia … oh well … there’s always Betty Buckley for lullabyes …

For reasons of no import at all, I cannot sleep. And I have – once more – resorted to the carnival of the past, the reverie of “before” and so … YouTube and the music of then … enjoy.

This is Patti LuPone and Kurt Peterson singing Endless Delights from the original cast recording of The Baker’s Wife. God, I LOVE this song. The first time I heard it I was – either 17 or 18 – and living a life of debauchery and my own sort of endless delights. I was spending a night with a group of my theatrical friends. Oh, the times we had. And we were all spending a night in someone’s townhouse, and I was – not unusually for me at the time – smoked up, drunk, and Black Beauty-ed into a sort of coma when a dear one said, “You’re going to love this.” And he played for me the album of The Baker’s Wife, which I had never heard. I was in love with the score and Patti LuPone, and while I was so fucked up I somehow burned a hole through my yellow overalls (yes, yellow overalls) and into my thigh WITHOUT NOTICING until the next day, I remember EVERY WORD of this album. LOL. It was, indeed, a time of Endless Delights.

In case you don’t know – The Baker’s Wife is the failed treasure from which came the often sung (to death) song, Meadowlark. Miss Patti LuPone does it here.

I have loved me many a Meadowlark, and like any theatre obsessive, I have REPEATEDLY thought it the story of MY life – which is what makes it a great song, it connects to something universal we have all felt – and oh dear – don’t get me started – so, here you go. Some other Meadowlark‘s for you.

First, a really rare version, the amazing and glorious and why isn’t she one of the famous divas like the Misses Buckley and LuPone? Miss Judy Kuhn. Her “Ahh, just when I thought my heart was finally numb…” around 4:20 is simply heartbreaking.

And, though this song makes NO SENSE WHATSOEVER as a duet, who can resist Betsy Wolfe and Lindsay Mendez – TOGETHER? Not me, that’s for damn sure.

Too, Sara Ramirez’s version is interesting. She is far more aggressive than most. There is a foundation of anger in her rendition – as if she is furious at the universe for putting her in this position. I find that a fascinating and smart take. I like it. A lot. Though I think the anger compromises the heartbreak that needs to be present at the end of the song when the dichotomy of the new love and passion versus the old love and comfort, the ache of the choice, the knowing that she is killing the king . . . so to speak . . . that is lost. But still . . . I get it.

And finally, my very most favorite … so incredibly gorgeous. Miss Betty Buckley. First, there is the instrument that is her voice – which is gorgeously unique in tonality and inflection and articulation and that pitch – so amazingly, piercingly, fantastically right where it should be. And with all of that, there is then her interpretation. She is THERE in every moment; she plays EVERY character; she doesn’t just sing songs, she LIVES them and not just her voice but her entire being – her body, her face, her SOUL, the ESSENCE of who she is is lent to the song and the story – SHE IS TRANSFORMED by the story and thus, transforms us. There are so many brilliant, breath-taking, make you gasp moments during this number – which I have had the privilege of seeing live – that I dasn’t begin to point out where you ought to especially attend – ATTEND TO EVERY SECOND. But, from the “Fly with me” at 1:59 through the “Every time I heard that part, I cried” at 2:39, Miss Buckley delivers more emotional arc and color than most actors bring to entire roles in two hour plays and films. She is transcendent. She is magic. Watching Miss Betty Buckley singing a song is like attending four years of acting school – not one false moment. She is all truth, she channels emotion from that place of Love and Light where it is born. This is musical theatre. This is acting. This is finding your Light and letting it shine and sharing it. This is Love. This is Life. This is as close to believing in God as I am ever likely to come – because if there was a God, She would sing Truth and Love like Betty Buckley.

Now, I am going to try to sleep.

… Miss Betty Buckley explains grace and miracles (for MiracleCharlie) …

The journey of life can seem a twisting, turning, sometimes torturous path. But that is, ultimately, all illusion. The secret – the Miracle – is the discovery that the journey is about learning to see, to relieve the blindness into which we are seemingly born – or, learn very early. We must finally forget all the silly things we come to misunderstand so that we can remember how to look upon all that is without the filters and distortions of all the illusions we are taught along the way.

Illusions. Distortions. Our shapes. Our skin tones. Our genders. Our ages. Our classes. Our intellects. All those things we use to separate ourselves from others. Illusions. The only thing that is real is the core of Love and Light within all of us, a connection we all share, we all are that One.

Sometimes we are blessed with grace. Amazing Grace. Listen:

We must achieve Grace; that is the only journey and it is one step inside our hearts. The step is personal, and, I think, happens in different ways to different degrees for all of us. For me, its map has always been displayed in theatre – musical theatre mostly – and in the voices of those who sing recognizably from that place of Love and Light.

Like, Miss Betty Buckley. She has been iconic throughout my life. From my early days earning my musical theatre fetishist card by acquiring a bootleg recording of “Carrie: The Musical” and experiencing Miss Buckley’s soulful, painfully, heart-breakingly honest performance until – years later – when I, myself, sang “When There’s No One” and thanks to that, did that summer in New York playing the fringe.

And in between, there was that time when I was able to go to New York and see her in the final week of her run in “Sunset Boulevard” and – hours after – still floating on the cloud of having experienced her genius therein, ran into her in the alley as she left the theatre and became a weeping, incoherent, unable to speak differently abled mess of a man with whom she was infinitely patient, clearly understanding how her performance had touched me without me having to say a word – which is good, since I couldn’t – and she said to the crowd, “Does he belong to someone?” And did not let go of me until I had been taken hold of by a friend, no judgment. Such Love and Light. And I have twice seen her in concert as well. And I listen to her CDs and watch her YouTubes whenever I am in need of some of that musical connection.

Spend your day watching Miss Buckley: her connected from the Love and Light rendition of “Amazing Grace” – making it an anthem of learning to see, learning to believe, once blind. Bless Miss Betty Buckley and all the other angels on earth who bring such joy and Love and Light through their work to the world, to all of us out here in the dark. And take it from someone who has long been nicknamed (another story another time) MiracleCharlie, that ability – that gift – is a miracle.

… diva turns … detours … turns … de-turns … wrong turns … i’m lost …

I am used to being lost. Literally. Then I got a Garmin. Unfortunately, there is no spiritual Garmin to tell me where to turn. How to get there. Wherever THERE might be. AND, tonight – I managed to break my Garmin. Which is a fucking – well – not so much – but which is a DISASTER. Now, not only will I continue this spiritual wandering, but I won’t know how to get ANYWHERE, here, where I am – well – TRYING to go.


I should be asleep. I should be. But I am watching DIVA-TURNS. I have watched/listened to six versions of ROSE’S TURN so far. And four of AND EVE WAS WEAK. And Betty Buckley’s SUNSET BOULEVARD finale performance four times. It’s on now, as I am typing. I saw her during her last week in the role, and coming back from dinner later, there she was coming out to her limo, I was encouraged to go over to her – but I was so ridiculously moved by her performance, so awestruck and emptied, I couldn’t speak. I just stood there and wept. She was so kind, her arm around me, holding me, until finally she looked at the crowd – thinking I was somehow differently abled – and said, “Does he belong to anyone?”

Now I am crying, because, no, I didn’t. I never have. It makes me a little sad. Right now. I don’t belong to anyone. I don’t belong to. I don’t belong. I don’t.

At 11:20pm tonight a dear, dear friend – my A -sent me a text; she is playing Carrie in “CARRIE: THE MUSICAL” which is enough to make a life wonderful, but, tonight during curtain call, she was proposed to.

Now, let me say this about that: I have long been obsessed with “CARRIE: THE MUSICAL” and long, long ago I knew I had won a HUGE prize of friendship when my dear, dear J presented me with bootleg recordings of both the Stratford version starring Barbara Cook and the Broadway version starring Betty Buckley. It was the beginning of years of J gifting me with rare recordings and gifts of things I’d only dreamed of hearing – he also sent me a bootleg of Ms Buckley in “SUNSET” and her performance as Mama Rose in “GYPSY”. Here are some ROSE’S TURNS.

(Tyne is my dear J’s favorite Rose. I didn’t see her.)

(Angela is my Mama Rose – I saw her when I was 12 and this performance was the greatest I have EVER seen anywhere, still un-equalled)

I used to dream I’d play Fanny Brice and Mama Rose. I had a lot of dreams. And so …

So, A, who I love dearly, is engaged. Proposed to on stage. During curtain calls. When playing Carrie.

So, long about 11:45 I went out. Long story. By the time I got home at 2am, my Garmin was crushed, I needed a shower, and I thought I lost my phone – but I found it in the back seat, sort of half under a jacket and … well, look, I’m not engaged.I am quite alone.

You won’t. I should get that. Look, this isn’t a musical. I’m not having curtain calls. I’m not playing or directing Carrie.

I spent hours today and tonight making chili. Which has to slow cook until Sunday to actually be ready. It’s my own recipe, a combination of many others, with touches of my own, and requires the roasting of fresh tomatoes and five kinds of peppers, the reconstituting of another two kinds of peppers in boiling beer, the braising and browning of three kinds of meat – brisket, pork shoulder, bacon, and three kinds of beans, and another few secret ingredients which are pureed with the roasted vegetables as part of the base, added in a particular order to the pot – the huge pot – which begins with the sweated/sautéed onions and garlic in special spices bought at the international market, and four spice dumps – all particular of weight and order – and … it is an intense and long process which results in something I think is very delicious and on Sunday, when it has cooked for a few days, I will make cornbread to go with it.

I am a really good cook. The person who crushed my Garmin thinks my name is Sebastian and knows nothing about any shows I’ve ever done or songs I’ve ever sung or chili I have made and … I don’t know that I can continue to be this person in this life for one more winter …

I need to GET OUT OF HERE … but without ANY SORT OF GARMIN TO GUIDE ME … how the fuck do I do that?