I'll go with thee to the lane's end... I am a kind of burr, I shall stick. Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

I write not to teach but to learn. Rebecca West

drew's writing:

  • "Always Forever Now," Ideomancer volume 13, issue 2
  • "Black Sun," Black Static # 32
  • "Bread or Cake" and "Pride/Shame,"2nd Annual Philadelphia One-Minute Play Festival
  • "Copper Heart," Polluto Magazine issue 5, A Steampunk Orange
  • "The Accomplished Birder's Guide to Overcoming Rejection," Last Drink Bird Head, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
  • "Another Night With the Henriksens," Player's Theater Halloween One-Act Festival NYC 2008
  • "Hating the Lovers," and "Pipe Down!" Geez Magazine: Thirty Sermons You Would Never Hear in Church
  • "Beth/slash/Nathan," Paper Fruit Blogiversary Contest

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

natural/unnatural; dead can dance in philadelphia

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We saw Dead Can Dance a while back, I meant to tell you--mainly, I meant to tell you Lisa Gerard's parting words. After we applauded them back for four encores: "You are all very special," she said, "have beautiful dreams." It is true we are all special, but few can be special as Lisa Gerard, who sings in her own idioglossia, and whose contralto is so potent and baleful it seems occult--more like the horizontal pupil of the deer or goat than anything else I could think of comparing it to in nature.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Castle of Saint George, Lisbon

P1040770 I wanted to see the Castle of Saint George

The Castle of Saint George was a true fortress, like the gated communities of today. It was my idea to see it, on our trip to Lisbon, and it proved a hit with my companions. So, very satisfying. There was a breeze, and the light was exquisite.

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When I first learned that castles were primarily defensive structures, I was disappointed, and I guess that disappointment stayed with me. But the castles of Portugal were so beautiful and varied, and rich in stories, I'm back to crushing on castles.

I'm more guarded myself now, so I suppose I can forgive castles for being the same.

We climbed all around the wall walk and looked at the arrow loops and other defenses. It was a wonderfully secure castle, satisfying and invigorating to my paranoia. I took my camerado around the inner gatehouse, and showed him all the places where invaders could be murdered.
 
 P1040782 We climbed all around the high inner walls and looked at the arrow loops and other defenses

A pleasing thought! That feeling, in chess, when your bishop moves to attack the enemy rook, and the rook finds his avenues of escape patrolled by one of your knights. That feeling is war's cradle.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

little, big

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He told me he would show me, at the right hour on the right day, and I became very excited and read up on fairy matters and elf lore. One book said there was a county in Ireland that had never been infiltrated by fairies, but that they were even now trickling in to it little by little.

That surprised me.

I went to the church at the right hour on the right day, and there he was, a burly man with a dark beard and curly hair, and a large fragment of what must have been a much larger mirror. He set the mirror on the stone floor and I remember the feet of the tourists as they came in and out of the church doorway.

The doorway that the mirror showed was different from the church doorway it faced. In the mirror I saw a small wooden door in a stone frame, rounded, with a pointed arch, I think--or did memory add that Gothic flourish? The doorway seemed older than Gothic. It would have been very small, maybe 6 or 7 inches high.

As I looked through the doorway in the mirror, I felt wonderfully happy, just as the man predicted I would.

Question one: What do you think I saw through the doorway in the mirror?
Question two: Who do you think the man was, with the curly hair and the dark beard?

I realized as I looked through the doorway that I could hear a song, not so much in the church around me, but inwardly. The next morning I got my violin out of the basement so I could learn the notes of the song, and remember it better, and was surprised how easy the violin was to tune, given how long it had sat.

(I neglect it; I've always had to work so hard to be any good.)

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(But even the talented people work hard, so I'm in good company.)

As I taught myself to play the song, I saw that in the night a spider had composed a perfect web between the back porch railings, just over the place where the steps go down to the yard.

Answer one: A waterfall, some mossy boulders.
Answer two: I don't know, but I can guess.

Friday, March 16, 2012

zulu coconut

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At Mardi Gras, at the Zulu parade, a woman dressed like a queen stood on a float, brandishing a coconut before the crowd. A handsome man said, throw it to me.

You come get it, said the woman.

Throw it to me!

You come get it.

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The man ran up to the float, and the woman placed the coconut in his hands. One year someone was injured by a flying coconut, so now coconuts are handed from floats. There's the woman on the right.

It irks me that America is assumed to have a "heartland," and that this heartland is assumed to be in the middle, where corn grows. I propose we regard New Orleans as the heartland. Is any place more essential than any other? Paul asks, in 1st Corinthians: "Can the eye say to the hand, I have no need of you? Or again, can the head say to the feet, I have no need of you?"

Below see a coconut handed to my sister-in-law as soon as we arrived at the Zulu parade.

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My sister-in-law said she had been coming to Zulu her whole life and this was her first coconut. She attributed the coconut to the presence of her daughter. It was my niece's first Mardi Gras.

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I couldn't seem to get a coconut. My brother has lived in New Orleans for more than a decade, and hasn't gotten one yet! When I woke on Mardi Gras it had never occurred to me to want a painted coconut, but shortly after arriving at Zulu, I wanted one badly.

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Through desire and scarcity, a commodity is born.

People invest in gold when times are tough, but you could eat a coconut.

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There are many prizes at the Zulu parade. I was tossed a Kung Fu Panda, and an enormous quantity of beads was flung me by an old man high in the upper tiers of a float. You're supposed to trade the beads for views of people's anatomy on Bourbon Street, but I didn't know this, and didn't know what largesse the old man was showing me. The beads were worth endless vistas of human flesh, oceans, mountains, deserts of flesh. I just wore them; my father clued me in later. I'm always late to the party, always the guy saying How long has this been going on? Like the mediocre servant in the Parable of the Talents.

When I'm ripe to fall from some teetering height of years, will I fling my leftover will to some younger proxy?

It's expensive to be on a Mardi Gras float; you buy all the gifts that are flung--or handed--to the crowd. Anyone who can afford it can be on a float, and anyone on a Zulu float wears blackface. Black people wear blackface and white people wear blackface.When I first noticed this, it gave me a jolt.

A woman on a float watched me watching the parade, and wanted to give me a coconut.

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I didn't notice her: you know how I gape at the world in a state of transfixed rapture. A tourist is a soap bubble, hovering above the scene hollowly, empty of thought or judgment, delirious with reflections.

But I heard the woman yelling Hey, hey, HEY! and looked, and ran up for my coconut. She placed it in my hands.

So I got my coconut.

The day after Mardi Gras, we went birdwatching, and my father asked me to be sure to stay in touch with my niece throughout her life, to look out for her when he was gone and share all the enthusiasms that unite our family--presumably art films, strange dense novels, and natural science. She'll get all that from her parents, as well as a political intelligence that I couldn't give her. But my father had paid me a huge compliment in asking. It tells me he thinks I have something essential to offer, or I embody some living piece of the encouragement or wisdom he could give his granddaughter in her life. Either way, it was a grave compliment, and probably the wrong time to joke. "You bet," I told him. "I've already gotten her a subscription to Baby New Yorker."

"They have a Baby New Yorker?" he said.

I said no, I was kidding, and assured him I would always stay in touch with my niece. To be essential to your family is a great thing. I'm grateful to be valued, and don't take it for granted.

To be loved is the real coconut.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

pantokrator

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If there is a Christ, one would suppose he is well over the crucifixion by now and has moved on to other things, like making new worlds, or kindling love from the heart's brushwood of fears and hurts. But at Mardi Gras some killjoys, belated Simons of Cyrene, drag the cross from Golgotha, their home, and parade it around to remind us of the gory retroactive consequence of our supposed sins.

The resurrection ferns over their heads reproach them.

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Should the central icon of our religion be grisly death, or renewed and fruitful life?

spy boy

The first time I went to New Orleans I found a friendly local to show me around. He was a drag queen. He drove me to all the neighborhoods and took me inside his friends' homes. We went to a vintage shop where I got two wool jackets for $15 each, and he admired a shimmering golden gown--the beaded kind a girl could throw in a suitcase and not need to iron. I wish I had bought it for him. I wanted to buy him dinner to say Thanks, but he had to go to his job.

Later, I called him and asked if that gown was still in the shop, and told him to buy it for himself. I'd mail him a check. He said

oh no honey, that's long gone

My host also took me to see what I would have called a voodoo "priestess," but I've heard that mother may be a more precise term. She was a small woman with the same air of silent teeming intelligence you see in photos of Joyce Carol Oates. We met her in her shop. I was awed, but, a good tourist, I'm frequently awed.

We went to a shop with remains of old costumes from various parades. Each time my host referenced a parade I hadn't heard of, I was surprised. "They have a parade for that?" I would say. I only knew about Mardi Gras. My host would say,

honey, they have a parade every time a cat has kittens


or

honey, they have a parade every time a dog pees on the sidewalk


When I came back for Mardi Gras, I met up with my friend, in a bar. He was wearing a pith helmet and beads, and was in no state for conversation. I talked to a friend of his, a college professor in a bear suit. "You're a bear," I said.

"And so are you," said the professor.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

2011 best live music

My hip, Hemingway-reading great-grandfather Pop White (a shrewd farmer who vaunted his success by buying a new car every year of the Depression), and, we suspect, his son my uptight grandfather (nicknamed "The Sponge" for his genius at freeloading) saw burlesque shows at the Trocadero Theater in Philadelphia; my father and I see concerts there now, making me the fourth generation of my family to attend this establishment. The Troc was the venue for the best concert I saw in 2011, the Civil Wars: the sound was perfect, and, strangely, when the audience sang along (the house was full of fans) they sounded great. Not usually the case with singing fans at shows. The highlight of the evening was the Wars' shivery cover of Billie Jean. This was a great night at my favorite venue, thank you Civil Wars, singing fans, and my camerado, whose idea it was to go.

After the Civil Wars I might put Lucinda Williams and Teddy Thompson at a tie. Lucinda Williams is a favorite of my Dad's; he's seen her 12 times. This year was my 2nd. Although Williams is a song-writing goddess and sings like a barfly sibyl uttering uncanny prophecies just as she's slipping off her barstool, she doesn't get under my skin like she gets under my Dad's. I think she's his ideal woman, and who could blame him? Her concert was stunning--she roved through every outpost of human experience, and did two of my favorite of her songs: Honeybee and Unsuffer Me--the latter the most powerful rendition of a song I've seen since Annie Lennox did Cold with such unnerving candor she caused an audience to spontaneously rise to its feet.
Lucinda Williams also covered Buffalo Springfield's For What It's Worth, showing great taste, and dedicated it to Occupy, also showing excellent taste. My Dad, my Dad's girlfriend, and my camerado and I all dug this show immensely.

Teddy Thompson opened for KD Lang; he's such a great singer and song-writer but seems to be holding back. With that voice and his song-writing skills he could take over the world with a single power-ballad, and be another Adele. But his aesthetic is one of restraint. At one point Teddy Thompson let out an incredibly long, full-throated note that made the audience gasp. It was unique in his set. He was an interesting contrast to KD Lang, who followed him, and showed off her exquisite bellowing till I was numbed to it. She has a glorious voice. The audience lost their minds when KD Lang started doing Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah,but I wasn't persuaded that the world needs another version of this song. Still, I like it that she performed this weird song, about religious and sexual and other forms of rapture--with its icy sadomasochistic currents--for the opening of the 2010 Winter Olympics: That was an admirably perverse choice. KD Lang's new song I Confess is great, very funny and sexy, and we liked her band, and the audience was the queerest I've ever been in. A fun night out at the magnificent Kimmel Center, with my camerado, who also suggested this one.

Again with my Dad, it was a thrill to see Jimmie Dale Gilmore, the dazed hippie genius of country music, at World Cafe. I had seen him before, performing in a park with his son. This time the audience was dead, checked-out except for one young hippie who stood up front doing annoying interpretive dances to each song, entranced by his own acid trails. Jimmie Dale and his band, the Wronglers, must have a strange impression of Philadelphia audiences. I love Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and was excited to buy a poster and get his autograph. His version of In the Pines, on the "Heirloom Music" album, may be my favorite version of this song, which is my Amazing Grace.

Back to the Trocadero, my biggest concert disappointment of 2011 was Peter Murphy with She Wants Revenge. I'm not blaming Peter Murphy: he was fantastic, Liza Minnelli couldn't have had more vitality. I think of Peter Murphy as a cool, aloof type, but he put on a show. I've always liked him, but when I saw how game he was to go all out for his fans, I loved him. Murphy did Marlene Dietrich's Favorite Poem--I hoped he might! and an acoustic Bela Lugosi's Dead, something you wait your whole life for. (Next time, I hope, Crystal Wrists). But the sound at the Troc was terrible; we were closest to the stage in the first balcony--and the Troc is small--but Peter Murphy sounded like he was at the bottom of a swimming pool; I couldn't make out a word. It was a long night. The openers, She Wants Revenge, were mesmerizing the first time I saw them (at the TLA), but they seemed subdued at the Troc, tired or disappointed--keeping their coats on like folks who stop by your house but really can't stay. Coupled with the bad sound, this made for a weak show. However, based on how great they were the first time I saw them, I would see She Wants Revenge again.

I also saw Joan Baez, who is very cool, though perhaps not cool enough to drive all the way to Glenside for. I went mainly to hang out with my Dad. But Joan Baez told a memorable story that made the trip worth it: about being a very young woman sent to wake Martin Luther King with a song (he was due for a speaking engagement). She's an excellent mimic, and very funny; her imitation of a drowsy MLK was so spot-on, it was like being there with her; time vanished.

Prufrock measured his life out with coffee spoons; I guess I'm measuring mine with theater and concerts. In January I get that feeling of a kid up way past his bedtime--excited, a little frightened, awestruck. I'm perched on a hill, on a heaped-up mass of time, at the old year's midnight. Winter and autumn slope away behind me, the remaining winter and spring slope into darkness ahead of me. In this mood I write my posts about the best live performances from the year that's ended, which is how I learn what I really thought of them.

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