Ellis Avery
Monday February 18th 2019, 3:45 pm
Filed under: exit,friends,grief,magic,memory,New York Tags:

Oh, Ellis. I’m so very, very sad about your death. Too many thoughts in too many directions, not helped by having had a high fever and the flu, and only just coming back into focus as a person.

I don’t think we were as close as we should have been, but I always _felt_ close to you (and to S) despite the distance and the long silences. Our annual tradition of calling and singing happy birthday to the other – I don’t recall how it started. I do recall the very surprised russian woman a few years ago when I didn’t have the right number for you, who politely waited for me to finish before telling me I had the wrong number. Increasingly “close” seems a weird metric for friendship – social media is filled with people grieving your death, who knew you longer and better than I did. But whatever kind of friends we were, we were, and policing its authenticity doesn’t seem helpful.

You seemed more grown up,more assured, partly because of Sharon, perhaps, or for owning a flat in Manhattan, or for having written a book. A book! A novel! I don’t know why you and Sharon rescued me from Wall Street Reporter to do construction. I’m sorry I couldn’t do the window, which I said I could, or the fan. I probably turned out to be a very expensive rescue.

Waiting by your chunky black landline phone as I bustled deliberately around, December 2005 was a weird month, as I dutifully showed up at your house every day to work. Was there really that much work? I remember painting the bathroom with you and S, fucking up the window and the fan, and finally patching the ceiling rather than replacing the sheetrock. Was that weeks of work? And the bidding war for your manuscript, your agent calling with updates. Much like Toni, the day before she died, watching General Hospital as we sat on her couch, and wondering aloud “who ever would think this is how it would end, watching General Hospital with you.” Did you feel the same way about getting your first big publishing deal with me pottering around in your house, your partner far uptown. Did I understand? Was I celebratory enough? I was so excited for you, but I don’t know if I made that clear.

All the grading papers at Mud cafe. I hate fucking grading papers. I’m not grading papers _right now_. Though I wish I had your scansion handout. I’ve looked a few times. There might be a hardcopy in a Dalton box somewhere. It was great. Thanks for teaching me how to scan verse so I could teach it, so little Peter whatshisface could clap wildly erratically beats, far removed from syllables, let alone stress.

Oh Ellis. I didn’t read your cancer memoir after the last time I saw you, when you gave it to me after we had hours and hours and hours of talking and catching up. I think I saw you once more, as you and your scooter visited the little house in Echo Park, and himself was charmed. [Email fact check. Yes, a few weeks later] I read it Saturday, still lightly feverish, after I learned of your death. You were in so much pain for so many years. And the food stuff, that would’ve killed me. S sounding like herself, terribly and truthfully and transcendently.

[OK, email fact checking now has me re-reading a whole seam of correspondence I didn’t really know existed. This stood out, too “Ask me about the the “employee of the month” badge I earned and then promptly sold for $30.” I have no memory of this. But the emails, recalling dinners and computer fixing and the bed platform that was much of the work done at their flat, and walks and coffees and all the rest, paint a picture of a much deeper intimacy than my brain remembers. I used to remember. Sigh.]

The grief is deep. She was so vibrant, so very much herself, so fiercely generous, so impossibly bright at times, so very dark at others. I lack words, really, to describe your impossible self.

20 years of writing a haiku each day. Dead at 46. Fuck that.



A play
Sunday July 31st 2016, 11:13 pm
Filed under: change,himself,magic Tags:

Not a book. And a typo on p 258 – “there are things that death cannot touch. Paint…and memory….and love.” Who knew paint was so powerful?

But the words are, however juvenile, however past the selves who read the books, first with other smalls, then alone, and someday again with him. I want him to know this feeling, of being deep inside yourself, ranging across past and present, making connections between things that didn’t seem to be connected. Feeling fragmented and whole, exhausted and awake. A book, finished. Because that’s what you do.



Milosz on Dostoevsky
Sunday December 02nd 2012, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Berkeley,Boozy,magic,poetry Tags:

From a Paris Review interview:

[on the novel]
It’s an impure form. I taught Dostoyevsky at Berkeley for twenty years. A born novelist, he would sacrifice everything; he knows no obligations of honor. He would put anything in a novel. Dostoyevsky created a character in The Idiot, General Ivolgin, who is a liar and tells stories—how he lost his leg in a war, how he buried his leg, and then what he inscribed on the tombstone. The inscription is taken from the tomb of Dostoyevsky’s mother. There you have a true novelist. I couldn’t do that
….
[edit to add]
Art is not a sufficient substitute for the problem of leading a moral life.
[/edit]

Seeing the film version of Anna Karenina threw me. I clearly haven’t read it since before April 1999. Not unlike Buffy S02 E17, in some ways (the film, that is).



performative
Thursday May 26th 2011, 9:29 pm
Filed under: magic,memory,nostalgia,poetry Tags:

passion. They had it, the students, the cast not of thousands but a dozen. Midsummer, a show I don’t think I’ve seen performed since I built the set for a production, in the years before time, amidst memories less stable than I might have guessed. An amazing set, an abstracted forest of horizontal wooden and metal beams protruding from a wall running the width of the stage, perhaps 12 feet tall and curved at the bottom. There was much leaping and sliding and jungle-gym hijinx that make me amazed nobody was seriously injured, with the pathetically craven and safe hindsight of age looking at youth. This evening, a Puck channelling Rayanne Graff with Darryl-Hannah-Blade-Runner eyes, and an uneven but committed cast. passion. performance. Not only the fearless bodies on stage, bodies held up and out for laughs, for groans, for mockery and interest, but the audience. Perhaps it’s because they’re usually in class, but an unusually powerful sense of community, of cheering for friends and loved ones, of belonging. And in that belonging, the base and the ledge, the depths and the heights, to enable, to disable, to offer up something that mattered not at all, but says everything about them. And I forgot, for a few hours, pretty much everything else. The shadows did not offend, and I feel, keenly, that none of this is a dream.



I want
Saturday January 08th 2011, 10:59 pm
Filed under: magic,Miscellaneous, Truly Tags:

I want more magic in my life. I may have to chase it.

2 hours later. “I remember that night better than I remember entire years.”. Maybe I, too, put things in boxes. Maybe I could see them because I have so many myself.

1 hour later. I ran the race against all and sundry, and against myself, and i left most of them and most of me in the dust. But it’s still off to the races, even if I’ve chosen poorly sometimes.