Archive for July, 2015|Monthly archive page

Props, furniture, entries and exits

In Animals, Artists, Circus, Current reading, Film, Hautvoir, Local projects, proto drafts, Sanford Meisner, Scene Prep on July 31, 2015 at 6:53 am

Setting new bearings – these books here, close at hand. Those books, upstairs in the living room. The presence of others – a rarity in the other apartment. The flow will taper off here, once the settling in is done. Still. The living room is at ground level. The open window, an invitation to pop a head in for a quick chat. Disconcerting. I’ll get used to it.

Another full morning of things-to-do: handing over the keys to the previous apartment, driving out to a paint and hardware store in Gaillac with a friend. Rain and cooler air came in yesterday. The light is softer this morning. Friends sawed off, then reassembled, the top of a bookshelf to inch it out the kitchen window, down to the bedroom and into my work space. The dog, delighted with the visitors, the petting, the extra attention. After the bookshelf caper, a round of beers for everyone (except the dog). A newcomer shows up with a guitar case. I watch the proceedings in a state of bemusement.

My neighbors are late risers. Early morning: guaranteed quiet time.

Current bedside reading other then The Iliad : Jacques Prévert’s screenplay for Les Enfants du Paradis, Thierry Rémy’s Entrées clownesques, and don marquis’ archy and mehitabel, now that they’ve re-emerged from storage. Meanwhile, Cybèle gets part of her morning exercise chasing a black cat by the name of Johnny. The cat scurries under the wire-mesh fence – an uneven contest. Cybèle knows this? Maybe. Will she stop chasing cats she’ll never catch? Only if arthritis sets in, and even then, I bet she’ll still go through the motions.

C’est tout ?

In Animals, Hautvoir, Local projects, Poetry, proto drafts on July 30, 2015 at 12:34 pm

Granted, a working shower will add extra points to the pleasantness. As will a secure mailbox and a few other such amenities. All furniture in place, all books stacked in their rightful place. A lick of paint to the dismal little lav upstairs. And so on. All these things, still in the planning phase. Still. This place feels more like a home to me than did my previous living arrangement. There’s nothing grand about this place. Something of the snug bug in a rug feel to it, in fact (but, so far, no trace of live critters other than my person and my dog, although she may harbor a few fleas – must see the vet soon).

While moving stacks of books this morning, I happened to open don marquis’ archy and mehitabel at random and fell upon  xviii the wail of archy. One of the characters immediately identified with these three lines:

i with the brain of a milton

fell into the mincemeat at christmas

and was damned near baked in a pie

How the character related to this fall from grace. Although, given her gender, she should relate to mehitabel the cat, no? No, there’s no hard and fast rule in the world of characters. Given the unending downturn in her fortunes from once almost-famous actress to… well, less than famous, let’s leave it at that, the character relates to archy’ wail. For anyone unfamiliar with archy and chancing upon these lines: once a vers libre poet, archy’s soul has transmigrated into the body of a cockroach. Trying times indeed, especially when it comes to activating the typewriter keys – and Kafka thought he had it rough.

C’est tout? Yes, that’s all for now. Books to sort, proto-draft to move ahead, one word at a time, plus time-outs to figure where best to stack the dishes or store the cutlery.

Enter the Clowns

In Artists, Circus, coffee, Current reading, Hautvoir, Local projects, proto drafts, Sanford Meisner, Theater on July 29, 2015 at 7:12 am


With books now strewn all over the floor (but most wall hanging art installed), I repair to my bedroom and collapse. Still one bookshelf to move into the downstairs office. It will have to come in through the office window from my neighbor’s terrace – the exercise will involve ropes and some athletic moves on someone else’s part than mine. Writing during a move: not an obvious exercise.

However, I’m not alone when I collapse onto my narrow bed. At least one of the characters tags along. For the time being, his presence manifests in a book called Entrées clownesques by Tristan Rémy, and its remarkable preface. I doubt the character would have read this book, and I’m certain he never read a preface in his life. Yet, some of the essence of it belongs to him; every time I pick up the book, that essence hovers in a half-formed dialog that ensues between him and another character. The exercise of translating this into the character’s notions – something like reducing chicken broth into stock.

The first part of the preface in Entrées clownesques gives an idea of the French obsession for rules and every regulatory practice imaginable. In this case, the passion being exercised concerned theaters in the nineteenth century. How many theaters allowed per town, which repertoire they were allowed or forbidden to show. How many performers allowed; whether they could speak lines or not. Where and when mimes, pantomimes and acrobats were allowed to display their talents. Etc.

Then: a novelty. An unexpected arrival on the French scene. One that didn’t fit in any of the carefully devised sub-sections. Straight from across the Channel, there appeared the Clown – derived from the buffoon, perhaps, but a different animal nonetheless. The first, one Bill Saunders, limited his spoken performance to the vowels a e i o and u. No records subsist of the actions he performed.

How any of this will translate into story, I don’t know. The book Entrées clownesques holds sway, and so does the return of this character. Meanwhile, in life outside stories and the writing of, lots to do requiring the much-appreciated presence of others.

From my window now, I can hear the church bell ringing the hours. Twice. If  you were distracted the first time, you can count the strokes at the second ringing. It is now eight am.


I moved on Saturday, so this must be Tuesday

In Animals, Break - coffee, Food, Fun, Hautvoir, Local projects, proto drafts, Sanford Meisner on July 28, 2015 at 7:11 am

Delivering a crack to my own noggin took no brains whatsoever. Fatigue, yes, and just enough brains left to realize I should remove the wobbly shelf before trying to secure it. The shelf then proceeded to demonstrate what gravity was all about.

No huge harm done. The bump is tender and about the size of a small plum – thus far, the worst casualty in my move from the chilly mansion to the – hm… the words proletarian surroundings would suggest men and women rise at dawn to earn their keep. A few of them do but there’s little work available which explains why many of the men stay up late at night and argue at the café down the hill. Small dogs like to join into the argument – notably, a pug at the butcher shop whom Cybèle has not met other than in voice. The pug’s barks get on Cybèle’s nerves. She wishes to tell the pug to shut up. I tell Cybèle to shut up. Thus, a further cycle of injustice sets in.

However. Thus far, I like my humble home, even though the walls refuse simple amenities such as screw-in hooks for framed things. The walls have been around since the sixteenth or seventeenth century. Small nails and screw-in hooks don’t cut it, in the literal sense.

Compared to the closet-sized kitchen with no view in the former place, I experience deep contentment at sitting down in this one for my evening meal and watching the light play on foliage and ancient stone walls and timber. Books are starting to migrate from the ground floor to the one below (the apartment is a split-level which gives it the feel of a small house). Three of my favorite Plonk & Replonk postcards have resurfaced: Napoleon Bonaparte, pretending to be a mad man;  an army unit demonstrating the advantages and inconveniences of deliveries by giant-sized carrier pigeons; and the ancient practice of grandfather clock smuggling in ancient times. Plonk & Replonk postcards to form an essential decorative feature at some spot such as the lav.

Needless to say, fiction writing moves at a sluggish pace right now. Words assemble while I tear up basil leaves or get shelves to Sit and Stay. I jot them down, then fall into a semi-trance state combining physical fatigue and a welter of things clamoring for immediate attention.

The point is…

In Animals, Collage, Film, Hautvoir, Local projects, proto drafts on July 27, 2015 at 6:38 am

According to wikipedia, Portal of All Knowledge, one critic called the first part of  Miguel Gomes’ film trilogy Arabian Nights  a “frequently fascinating collage of stories”.  According to one tired body that tended to nod off through long stretches of it, that opinion gets amended to : “not frequently enough”.

A huge problem, when reality keeps washing up more fascinating stories than you can process. Sad to say but, yes, you must choose. In interviews, Gomes says that’s what he did. I’m quite happy with some twenty minutes or so of his material as a basis for a wilder, wackier and more satisfying take on the grandees from the plutocracy and their trek through the land of the rooster. The Rooster’s Tale is quite wonderful and the actress chosen for the telling, perfect. Her voice is the human equivalent of a rooster’s powerful and insistent reminder of… of… whatever, but get on with it, humanity, Right Now.

(Last night, the open window in my bedroom allowed me to discover the vocal range of someone living across the chasm where the moat – sorry, the stream – used to run and the women used to wash the winter linens and slap out resistant stains on the stones. They made resistant fibers, back then. Nothing like the whisper-thin garments on sale at the local market, these days.)

I digress? Yes. But no i.e. digressions tethered around a point. A point explored from different angles.

But what’s the point, a voice asks inside my head. You tell me, I answer.

But first, I must gather my empty cardboard boxes so a friend can drive me to the local recycling place; then, I must remember to… etc. Day Three of the new Settling In.


In Animals, Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, proto drafts, Sanford Meisner, Sundays on July 26, 2015 at 9:24 am

Power : On

Water : On

Internet : On – except I still have to figure out how to log into my connection, so this is written at Volubilo again.

A daze, combining physical exhaustion and relief. Only glitch in the move yesterday: loss of power on the car battery when we were about to haul the first load to the new place. A set of cables, another car and off we went. Through the entire proceedings, stunning goodwill and energy put out by friends and friends of friends. Appliances connected, books loaded onto the shelves (sorting will happen later), pots, pans and dishes stacked in the kitchen.

voilà. The night involved lying in bed watching the moon glide across my open window while muscles and sinews hummed, twitched, and worked their way to relaxation. Deep, dreamless sleep, and waking to the first morning jottings by bedside in the new environment.

First visitors this morning: small lizards checking out the place. On the window ledge, my wire sculpture Don Quixote rides his wire Rossinante to a decisive encounter with their reflection in the open window.

Sunday market now, then back up the hill for whatever comes next.


Connected : Yay.

A brief one on my way to the new place

In Food, Hautvoir, Local projects, New story, proto drafts, Sanford Meisner on July 24, 2015 at 7:17 am

for the extraordinary morning light – clear sky combined with fresher air in the early hours then – ah. How could I have missed it -viewed from the back, the way the coat jacket bunches over his right shoulder, and how he leads with the right foot as if shouldering his way onward through a narrow opening. Felix was one of the main characters in the first Hautvoir story. Thanks to a man from the subsidized housing unit, walking in front of me this morning, an important feature falls into place. Apart from which, a folding chair awaits in the unlocked trunk of a new neighbors’ car. Documents, food, water, books, laptop, admin papers, garbage bags, in my trusty green shopping cart. Of course, I had to forget an all-important something pertaining to the reading on the electricity meter at the old place – required to activate the new meter. Worse case scenario: power won’t be on before this evening. allez hop for now. First order of business: clearing some of the debris around the front door. Cheers to Sanford Meisner, and other such sources of inspiration.


In humeurs, Local projects, proto drafts, RLB trivia on July 23, 2015 at 11:40 am

Well, I’ll be … Using the computer at Volubilo again, I type in my previous email address and… yep, still active, with a bunch of Facebook updates and a message from a man by the name of Rudolf promising to send me a check for 18 768 euro and 19 centimes in payment for two of my bills. The 19 centimes are a nice touch. You’re almost tempted to click for a quick response such as: gee Rudolf, I guess you have the wrong email address, I never billed you …uh… hm… Second read-through: I guess Rudolf has the wrong address. He also has one surprising grammatical deconstruction you don’t expect in a professional email. The active email account comes as a surprise but there seems to be a basic operational disconnect between me and computerized systems.

Something funny happens when I’m down to the final bits of sorting, culling, and packing. I get as obsessional and finicky as someone putting together a five-thousand piece reversible puzzle. Oh, the satisfaction of all the flat-head screws in one jar, and the roll of duct tape in a snug fit between the twine and the wire-mesh brush. Something like the packing and unpacking I did prior to my three-month solitary trek across Europe, years ago,  carrying nothing but an extra large bag I could throw over my shoulder. I had everything I needed, including reading and writing material, change of clothes, toiletries, plate, cup, cutlery, road food (replenished along the way, so that I ate British apples in Holland, and Dutch cheese in Germany; German sausage in Denmark, and Danish herring in Sweden. Etc.)

The characters. Still milling around. Some with names, some without. Some with names that won’t stick, something like post-its. An odd business, starting on a new one. Same as with pregnancies, I guess. They say no two are alike.

If I come over here first thing in the morning tomorrow, I may get a chance to roam around internet a bit. Unless things flow in an uncharacteristic way, I won’t get back to a connection before Sunday.

Snug. The word even looks and sounds the way things fit in the toolbox this morning.

In Animals, Artists, Circus, Current reading, Hautvoir, proto drafts on July 22, 2015 at 11:20 am

I’ll be soaked when I get back to the appartment. I’m not about to complain. Fresher air and the regular gurgle of a steady downpour. I’ve opened all the windows at Volubilo. When I arrived, members of the local swim team were churning the water in the municipal pool next door. Now, they stroll by in groups of two or three, conversing with bath towels on their heads.

In the rush of things to do, I’d forgotten I’d taken the time to copy several email adresses on the contact page of my other account, so while actual emails may be lost in the transition, the links should regenerate quickly.

As for Louise Erdrich: sustaining such a level of excellence as that demonstrated in The Master Butchers Singing Club (and everything else I’ve read of hers)? A blessing for the reader. For the writer: the kind of experience provided by a Master class where the goal isn’t in copying someone else’s talent and range but observing how a great one both relaxes into the writing and stays out of the way so the characters can use every usable scrap that suits who they are.

Then, going back to writing from one’s own store of memories, sensations, obsessions, questions and quirks. The odd mix of gratitude and relief I feel whenever I read something excellent – there’s another  swath of the human experience transferred to the realm of story. Not matter if the experiences are bleak or joyful. Reading something at that level puts me in a good mood.

In” real life” last night: three groups of circus people talking shop until way too late. I listen, aching to get home. Watch puffballs of white moths around the street lamps, glinting like swirls of gold foil. Then, poof, on some cue not obvious to a human, they’re  all gone. Where?

Loss, for instance

In Animals, Break - coffee, Current reading, I Ching, Local projects, proto drafts on July 21, 2015 at 10:26 am

So. The Social Center again. Mit a desk fan – the heat outside, relentless. The air cooled somewhat during the night. I opened all the floor length windows and  Cybèle slept out of the narrow balcony. At one point, the open window framed the Big Dipper.  In my next living space, the bedroom window points due South.

To-do lists – checking off the items, one after the other. I let the moments of despondency come and go – the door’s unlocked, I don’t invite them in,  I don’t shoo them away either.  When one set of chores is done, I read. Some Iliad, then some of Louise Erdrich’s sumptuous writing. I alternate between engrossed as a reader and writerly moments of paying attention to a way she manages the digging down into the characters’ unspoken emotions.

My own writing, in abeyance. I came across a quote by Gilles Deleuze (someone whose work I’ve never read nor felt any inclination to explore).  In French, the quote reads : “Si vous êtes pris dans le rêve de l’autre, vous êtes foutu”. Rough translation: If you’re caught in the other’s dream, you’re screwed.  So many ways to interpret that, different characters in the proto-draft are mulling that one over. Caught – as in trapped? as in involved? Mesmerized? Willing accomplice?

The new internet service provider promises to show up at the new place on Friday morning. Time will tell. In the meantime, I contact those people I can reach by phone to let them know the service shut down eleven days before scheduled. Please don’t send any further emails at that address and please remind me of yours in a text message on my phone.

Levels and levels and levels. I’m starting to understand why I like the word-for-word version of the I Ching so much. Something like my early childhood love of dictionaries, especially where they involved “ordinary” words, the ones where the possible meanings ran on for a half-page or even a full-page entry.

Loss, for instance. So many ways loss occurs, so many ways to experience, and express how it affects someone’s behavior.

Allez. Admin stuff ahead, and still lots of it.