the real triumph could be that i didn't drop a chunk of sparkler between my toes this time. (photo by george)


multigenerational text messages {sweet tooth edition}

LMO: licorice in a cart otherwise full of vegetables. why did you curse me?
dad: Curse? It is a gift, and if you are around for the end of the wor
dad: ld or anything else comparably important, I guarantee you it will
dad: come in handy -- could even save a civilization or two. Just be s
dad: ure to check back with me when that happens, and I will share a fe
dad: w more secrets with you.


when i was nineteen i wrote a sonnet about this guy i met.

remember your hands
for an unlikely advisor

'I picked you out,' he says, 'from over there -
You're beautiful! You look like me.' Presents
a flower made of napkins. 'Lady fair,
in that much black you must be fucking tense.'

'I'll fix those hands,' he says, 'let's see your wrists -
These muscles, girl! You write too hard.' And he
is pulling verses from my arms. 'A fist
can't make you anything, you wait and see.'

'I know your type,' he says, 'all metaphor,
all misery. You're young, you're strong. Forget
the drama; it'll only make you sore.
Your romance, honey, hasn't happened yet.'

I sag in my chair; he grins as he stands.
'Write something gentle. Remember your hands.'


conversations at the art supply store {II}

LMO: could you help me with some spray paint?
guy: sure! what color do you need?
LMO: black.
guy: that's easy!
guy: so...i got beat up last night.
LMO: god, i'm sorry!
guy: thanks.
LMO: what happened?
guy: this guy freaked out because some other guy drank his soda.
LMO: that's terrible. are you okay?
guy: yeah, i just got hit a couple of times here. [gestures at ribs] i'm pretty sore, though.
LMO: maybe you should get yourself checked out, to make sure your internal organs are okay.
guy: man, internal organs! well, it happened last night, so -
LMO: if you're still hurting in a couple of days, you should go see somebody. is this the black paint?
guy: no, it should be next to the white. here it is!
LMO: seriously, you don't mess around with that stuff.
LMO: and probably you shouldn't hang out with that guy any more.
guy: i'm the type of person that, when i see injustice, i have to speak up about it.
guy: and i think people appreciate that.


[The stories] were all about men, mostly in their late twenties or early thirties, mostly with an aspiration that they'd given up because of a marriage or a dead relative or a fear about not being good enough: the singer-songwriter who performs as a cowboy-clown at children's birthday parties and finds himself doing a gig at the house of his high school girlfriend; the minor-league baseball player forced to decide between new love and an unexpected ascension to the majors. There was a sweetness and earnestness to the stories that Juliet had at first found winning. The men were smart and self-effacing, the details about domestic routines spot-on, the characters' neuroses believable and exaggerated ever so slightly for comic effect. But Juliet also noticed in that third read that the women of the book were all blandly noble and long-suffering, and while the man-child narrator worked through his feelings of inadequacy, making such frequent comment about his failings that you couldn't help but think extremely well of him, to believe him enlightened, his girl stood by, full of spunky good sense and patience, never angry, never granted the luxury to be small or selfish. The clown story, "On the Redemption of Roy Rogers," ended with the narrator, still in grease paint, giving his high school girlfriend a long, tender kiss while her husband and the children at the party are outside taking pony rides (and of course there had already been a comically gloomy contemplation of the pony's being a gelding). "I kissed her," the last line went, "reclaimed her, while outside her husband and the pony walked a slow and never-ending circle, no sunset in sight."


"You want to tell me something about my book, I suppose. Well, enlighten me, Miss New York Press."
"That's Mrs. New York Press," Juliet said. "To you."
"Mrs., then. Enlighten me."
"If they were to make movies out of your stories, John Cusack would play the lead in every one of them."

(holly goddard jones, "the right way to end a story,"* tin house #52)
tin house's summer reading issue also boasts "annie duels the sun," a boss angie wang cover (wang's work frequently features heroic gals; "despite being stalked, bombed, or forced into submission, these young women persevere. if they're not already in escape mode or recovery, they are ready to unleash their power"), and an impressively plausible celebration of cooking with friends, a middlebrow, tv-themed collection of recipes developed on the down-low by jack bishop (who helped launch cook's illustrated and set the tasting protocols for america's test kitchen). i just ordered it as a bonus gift for the wedding we're attending next weekend.

*(that excerpt is not the end of the story.)


101 in 1001 {III}: 022 see at least 6 more of shakespeare's plays for the first time [ongoing]

i have grown weary of the discounts and local happenings which parade through my inbox each morning - the sample sales and i should spend some time apart, i think, and by and large i'm happiest when i'm loafing - but daily candy's weekend-preview email did me a solid last week:
Alan Cumming’s One-Man Macbeth
What: The quirky Scottish actor takes to the stage for a solo rendition of the Shakespeare classic set in a psychiatric ward.
Why: You worked up a sweat chasing Lady Macbeth in Sleep No More. Chill out for this one.
When: Today-July 14.
Where: Rose Theater, Broadway, at 60th St. (212-875-5766). Tickets ($50-$100) at lincolncenterfestival.org.
i did work up a sweat chasing lady macbeth in sleep no more (an immersive, interactive, macbeth-adjacent hipster theatre experience) back in december, and i wondered, therefore, if i could still count macbeth as shakespeare i had yet to see. i've developed a fondness for alan cumming's saucy introductions to masterpiece mystery! programs, and i found an empty seat in the center of the front row for fifty bucks, so i went for it.

bearing in mind that it's nearly impossible to stage shakespeare i can't enjoy in some way (congratulations again, perpetrators of a midsummer night's dream on the north shore of lake tahoe in the summer of 1999), this was some shakespeare, team. i know macbeth nearly as well as i know hamlet, so the fact that the play had been trimmed down to an hour and forty five minutes and nearly all surviving characters and lines fell to one underclothed, androgynous scotsman wasn't problematic for me. in fact, the very element that seemed to bother reviewers - that is, that cumming never develops the momentum of macbeth's traditionally terrible, carnivorous majesty at the end of the play - pleased me. i need king lear to be full-throated and tragic, which is why derek jacobi's infantilized version so disappointed me last year; he can't squeal and coo! macbeth, on the other hand, is a piƱata just waiting to be smacked. as staged by the national theatre of scotland, he's one of a dozen characters to erupt from AC, who is escorted to the stage (a cavernous, filthy-tiled psychiatric ward with a few rickety beds at one end, an iron staircase at the other, and a large, clinical viewing window high on the rear wall) by a silent man and woman in hospital uniforms. he's gently stripped of his suit, swabbed for evidence (there are three deep scratches on his chest, and there's something beneath his fingernails), given a white tee and trousers, and abandoned as he pronounces the first line of the play, a witch's line - "when shall we three meet again?" it segues beautifully to his first scene as the witches; his face is tripled in screens at the top of the stage, and his body contorts bestially (a la his x-men 2 character, nightcrawler). otherness suits him, and his scenes as the witches and as lady macbeth were some of my favorites. his turn as both macbeths in act I, scene V (lady m's "cowboy up" speech) should be ridiculous - who can plausibly seduce himself? - but the flipflop physicality totally works, and the scene is impressive rather than gimmicky. when cumming does settle in as macbeth, particularly in several long, wordless scenes in which he's both failing to turn into the thundering thane his wife urged him to be and going to pieces as a psychiatric patient (there's a particularly chilling sequence in which the same screens that showed cumming as the three witches appear to be showing a live feed of him alone and asleep on one of the hospital beds - until a dark, furtive figure materializes at his shoulder, visible on the monitors and nowhere on the stage) - he's riveting, whoever he is. contemporary staging and phrasing aren't usually my thing, but when they work, they work.

yeah, yeah, but who is he? "[this staging] might be some people's first time ever seeing shakespeare and this play, so we don't want to mess around," said co-director john tiffany (whose broadway version of once just picked up eight tonys, if you're into that sort of thing). "what we've done is try to honor the story by setting it in a context that an audience has a different way in." like a first-time sleep no more participant, a neophyte here would wander and even stumble a bit - but here, he or she would be sure to meet macbeth.

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 if you've seen sleep no more, do you consider it a staging of macbeth?
02 if you've seen cory arcangel's clouds, have you seen super mario brothers?
03 you've been asked to introduce a masterpiece mystery! show. what shall you wear? shall you affect an accent?
04 i bought a nonrefundable ticket for last sunday's show before realizing sunday was joe's birthday. am i the worst wife ever?
05 i need you to stage some one-man shakespeare. which play do you choose? why?


On his first free day since he was born Samuel sat with a loose girl in a locked bathroom over a teashop, the dirty curtains were drawn, and his hand lay on her thighs. He did not feel any emotion at all. O God, he thought, make me feel something, make me feel as I ought to, here is something happening and I'm cool and dull as a man in a bus. Make me remember all the stories. I caught her in my arms, my heart beat against hers, her body was trembling, her mouth opened like a flower. The lotus of Osiris was opening in the sun.
"Listen to the old birds," she said, and he saw that the hot water was running over the rim of the washbasin.
I must be impotent, he thought.
"Why did he cut his throat like that, Polly? Was it love? I think if I was crossed in love I'd drink brandy and whisky and creme de menthe and that stuff that's made with eggs."
"It wasn't love with Mr. Shaw. I don't know why he did it. Mrs. Bentley said there was blood everywhere, everywhere, and all over the clock. He left a little note in the letter rack and all it said was that he'd been meaning to do it ever since October. Look, the water'll drip right through into the kitchen."
He turned it off. The birds stopped singing.
"Perhaps it was love, really. Perhaps he loved you, Polly, but he wouldn't say so. From a distance."
"Go on, he had a limp," she said. "Old Dot and Carry. How old are you?"
"No, you're not."
"Well, nearly."
"No, you're not."

(dylan thomas, from adventures in the skin trade)
the dylan thomas collection i found at mast books a few months ago - with a photo of a man with his little finger lodged in a bottle of bass on the cover, and a child's blue ball-point scribbles on the last few pages - could be the first thing i've read in a decade that makes me want to be a novelist. not any novelist, mind you, but the novelist to finish that novel (thomas stopped writing it after four chapters).
This unique fragment, half fictional though it is, carries the unmistakable stamp of [DT's] personality. It is real now because it was once real to him, and because it holds the key to a certain attitude to the world and to a situation which was peculiarly his own. This attitude, which may be defined as a rooted opposition to material progress, he continued to hold long after he had abandoned work on the novel. Its anarchic fantasy appealed to him, and it is one more example of the poet's indifference to reputation, of his refusal to follow the advance guard of his fame.

(vernon watkins, in his introduction to adventures in the skin trade)
sam never gets free of the bottle, not even when the wicked polly convinces him to remove all of his clothes, get into someone else's cold, dirty bath, and drink a full glass of eau de cologne ("'Christ!' he said in a clear, ordinary voice. 'Christ!'"). it's a damn shame.