Friday, September 30, 2005

flood of memories

Last evening I was doing something quite rare for me, watching television. On PBS there was a special with musicians from the 1960s performing songs that merged folk and rock music. Much of this music was stuff I heard as a boy, on the AM radio that my mother played in the mornings. Some songs, like "Georgie Girl," my mom used to sing to me. I felt incredible nostalgia. Watching the audience was a blast. They were all baby-boomers, late 50s, mostly, and they all looked so happy. I loved it. Back then recording engineers were far more limited in how they could augment a recording, so singers actually had to be able to sing in tune, unlike today when people like Ashlee Simpson and Britney Spears have their voices so processed, but it is absolutely necessary since they cannot sing to begin with.

That show was followed by a documentary on the 1960s. I was born in 1962, and so the events of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War are etched in my subconscious memory, buried in the fog of childhood memories, all the more so because, for a child, they were scary. But when they showed footage of Martin Luther King, and particularly the assasination of that great leader and then Robert Kennedy, I was overwhelmed with the clearest memories. I was six when King was killed. My mother, who was deeply committed to the civil rights movement--she used to go to NAACP meetings in Philadelphia, and would be the only white person there--was crying and crying, and I was scared. Probably a more stable parent would have been able to keep it together and not scare her kids so much, but my mother was inconsolable. And watching the television last night, I started to cry, remembering.

Earlier I had been explaining to Yoshi that the present troubled me so--the war, Bush and his horrifying administration--and I missed the idealism of the post-60s, the 70s when a new society seemed possible, and I realized how much of that idealism has informed my own view of things. This is why I become so cynical sometimes. Idealists turn into cynics as we see, time and time again, our hopes and our dreams for a better world dashed. I didn't mean to be so dramatic, but I feel this deeply.

Thursday, September 29, 2005


The one who was a large one in being one then not wanting to meet the one who was then filling something, was then a large one in not wanting to be knowing any one who had been. He was then not wanting to be meeting the one who was then filling something. He was a large one then from having this feeling then in him. He was crying then some in being a large one.
(from Gertrude Stein: MEN)

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Birthday Girl

Happy Birthday, Mabel!


Monday, September 26, 2005

not to complain, but...

I am feeling that crushing sense of hopelessness and darkness that seems to be made worse by the dark sky and the falling rain. I hope that I will feel better in the morning. I will knock myself out and hope that I sleep through the night.


I have to find a new psychiatrist. Mine is retiring from private practice. So I called the first doctor I saw in NYC, whom I thought was excellent. Luckily she is back (she had gone away for several years, and in that time I had found a replacement). I called her last week, and left a message. She called back, leaving a message to tell me she could see me and that she would call the following day. I called back, leaving a message, to tell her I would not need to see her until November. She did not call back. I, being insecure and horribly neurotic in these matters, left her another message today telling her I hoped to be able to speak with her directly. I kept calling her office after that, to see if I could catch her. Knowing I was being ridiculous by calling so often, still I could not help myself. Finally she left another message. In my paranoia I felt she sounded annoyed. Why do I torture myself? And in doing so, I most likely alienate others. But I must remember--she is a psychiatrist after all--that she is probably used to people far more difficult than I.

Sunday, September 25, 2005




Patsy has discovered the piano. Normally I leave the lid up, and she crawls inside. She likes to be inside the piano while I play. This is not good for the piano, though, so I have had to close the case. So now, while I play, she lies on top. Sometimes she leans over the edge so she can watch my hands.


Saturday, September 24, 2005

Friday, September 23, 2005



Wednesday, riding the A train home after swimming, a woman came into the nearly empty car. She looked Brazilian, or Mexican maybe. She began to sing "O Mio Bubbino Caro" from Puccini's GIANNI SCHICCHI in such a beautiful rich soprano, dark-hued like she was. I was nearly stunned at first, as I am usually inured to the various subway performers who are regulars on the A/C line (except for the drummers; I really like the drummers). But this aria is one of the most beautiful ever written, and her singing was so gorgeous. She flubbed the melody a bit, which made me think that she probably did not read music but had learned the piece by ear. I got tears in my eyes. I gave her five dollars.

bloom (bw)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

not neglect...exhaustion

I didn't post anything yesterday. I am simply exhausted. I have not gotten more than five hours of sleep for so many days that by yesterday I felt physically weak and mentally blank. I have had insomnia for so long; I remember in graduate school, now almost twenty years ago, I would sleep only three hours a night, which enabled me to finish my AM and PhD in four years. But in the following years, when I did not have such a gargantuan workload, I would try to sleep, and the strangest thing would happen: right at the point where your brain passes from wakefulness to sleep, my body would be jolted by what felt like an electric shock, sometimes so strong that I would leap from the mattress. Then I would be wide-awake again, and the cycle would repeat itself until finally, usually at 5 am or so I would fall into a sleep that only lasted two hours. I wake with the sun, no matter what time I have fallen asleep.

This situation has improved because of some of the medication I take, but now it is getting more troublesome. But an increase in the dosage of desyrel that I started two weeks ago leaves me with excruciating headaches in the morning. I am at wit's end. I feel so desperate for sleep, and yet it eludes me. Help! I know I have written about this before, but nothing I have tried (melatonin, ambien, lunesta, sonata--what funny names these sleeping pills have--valerian, no caffeine after noon, etc.) has worked. I know it is a sign of bipolar disorder, but I seem so resistant to the standard therapies that I need something else. I exercise and try to take good care of myself, as doctors recommend, but it does not seem to help me sleep. I wonder if hypnosis would work. Please, if anyone reading this has some ideas, let me know. I am afraid my general health is suffering.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


My legs were very sore for some reason. I decided to take a bath. While the bathtub was filling, Patsy ran in. Before I could stop her, she leapt into the tub! And right back out. I caught her in mid-air. She was mortified.
staringwild girl


This article from the NEW YORK TIMES could have been written about my building, and me, too.

fit and trim!

Because Patsy chews on his leg, plays with his tail, and wrestles with him, Tuna is losing weight (which he sorely needs) and is acting younger. He likes Patsy, although sometimes he gets grumpy when she bothers him. It is liking watching an old grandpa with a pesky grandchild.

tuna bunny

Monday, September 19, 2005

beautiful day


I was very happy with the weather yesterday; the humidity lifted, the sky was blue, and the air felt fresh. Despite my avoidance of my social obligations, I went with Y. down to Fulton Landing, where there is a beautiful park along the water with sculpture, trees and grass. I was supposed to stop by at a gallery to see a show by a colleague, but I didn't. I just relaxed in the grass. And today is equally nice.

Last night we watched the film "Monster" with Charlize Theron. It was very intense, rather upsetting and violent, and utterly human. It resonated with me. I thought, had things gone differently for me years ago, I might have ended up lost like the characters in that story. And many of my childhood friends did. Paul D., who died at 32, his heart ruined by crystal meth. Others in jail. Because while I have come far from my past, the sordid lower-middle-class town where I grew up bred people like Aileen Wuornos; maybe they did not become cold-blooded murderers, but they dealt with the same lack of opportunity, with dead-end lives. Thank god I got out of there.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

social phobia

I still have to deal with my ever-present social phobia. For example, today I was supposed to go to a concert--a pianist who performs my music and has commissioned me in the past was in town performing--and also a party for a former student. I could not face doing either. It's like a big black cloud hanging over me.

cloud panel

Saturday, September 17, 2005


I took Pomona to the vet this morning. She had an irritation in her right eye. While there I told him how she has lost weight over the last few months. He believes she has a hyperthyroidism. I will take her back in one month to see if she has lost more weight. If she has, she will be tested, and then there are some options for what to do. Probably medication; the other treatment is very very expensive and she would have to stay in a hospital for a few weeks, which I think would be worse for her than any illness. She did not like going to the vet, but she behaved herself like a gracious lady while the vet poked at her.


Friday, September 16, 2005


Well, I was so rattled by this afternoon's experience that I left my bag with my swimsuit, goggles and other stuff in the locker room of my club. I called when I got home and realized my error, but no one there can seem to find it.

It is interesting that when I am in the midst of some sort of crisis event I remain utterly calm. When I was a lifeguard, I frequently had to deal with injured people, sometimes severe injuries. I was always calm and in command. But afterward I would be shaking. That's what happened today. When I got on the subway to go swimming I was quite shaken up. Only while I was swimming was my mind blank.


Shortly after I wrote that post, I went out to go swimming. I saw a number of police cars and an ambulance outside the building, and the guy who hit his boyfriend in handcuffs in the back of one of the cars.


I just had a very upsetting experience. I was walking Mabel, when I heard someone yelling for help. It was a guy, young asian guy, who lived down the block. He and his boyfriend had moved into the garden apartment about a month ago. They have two very cute dogs that Mabel likes to play with; she had just romped with them this morning. I went by to see what was wrong. The asian guy was crouched on the ground outside the apartment, naked, bleeding from a gash above his eye. His boyfriend was trying to get him to go back inside, but he kept yelling "no, no" and calling for help. I did not have my phone, but I saw a friend across the street; she had hers so she called 911. The boyfriend called for me to come over. I asked if they needed help. The boyfriend tried to say everything was fine, that the injured guy had been hurting himself. I asked the asian guy if he was ok. "No, no" he kept saying. "Did he hit you?" I asked. He nodded his head. I asked if he needed help. He said yes. I said that we would get the police, and he nodded. At that point the boyfriend, angry, went inside. Another woman from the neighborhood came over and we talked to the injured guy, trying to help him calm down. He was shaking terribly and crying and holding his dog to his chest. We looked around for someone who could go get the guy a towel or something to wear, but the police came driving up. Still the bleeding guy did not want to go inside. I searched in my pocket for my car keys; my car was parked nearby, and I have some towels and stuff in the trunk. The policeman brought the guy some shorts. He was terrified and in shock. After coaxing him inside, one of the policemen (quite cute, I must say) came out to talk to me. He said it was the third time they had been called there for similar issues, and the asian guy would not press charges. But it is a bad situation. It's funny. When I had seen the asian guy before, walking his dogs, he always seemed a bit sad. Once I saw him and his boyfriend together, and it looked like the asian guy was walking superfast, as if he was trying to get away from the boyfriend. I hope he will be ok. People stay in bad relationships sometimes out of fear. Maybe he can't go to his family. Maybe he has no money. I wish I could help. I guess I did help, in some way. And it was obvious that he had been hit; no one could easily gash themselves in that particular spot (along his eyebrow, a large gash). I feel drained. And disturbed.


It is surprising what a good night of sleep can do for me.

blue hydrandgea

Thursday, September 15, 2005



I am exhausted. I feel like I have climbed a mile of these steps. The humid haze wears me out. Our school has no air conditioning, and the classrooms are sweatboxes. Luckily I only have to teach for an hour or so tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005



When not acting crazy, Patsy is growing quite affectionate. Last evening I was reading, lying on my sofa, and she fell asleep on my chest.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

I forgot...

I have a special box that holds my medication, organized by daily dosage. I meticulously fill each compartment with the requisite number of little pills. But this morning, as I do too often, I forgot to take the pills. What to do? I am instructed not to "double up" the dosage. Ugh. So now I have to remember to remember to take my drugs.



I still feel so tired after a night of relatively deep sleep. I had a dream that I moved into a huge loft-like apartment in a building that looked like a fortress. The neighborhood felt industrial. Next door to my building was a school; it was in a large, windowless building of grey brick. I went there for lunch, and the director expressed an interest in hiring me to teach. I remember that behind the building where I lived there was an alley in which I could park my car, but the alley looked sinister, with barbed wire and broken glass and rubble lying all around.

Monday, September 12, 2005

to sleep...

When I feel this way it is best to knock myself out. I take 250 mg of desyrel and wait for it to do its work. So goodbye, for now...

the other direction

night, again

from my window, 9-11-05

tower of light 9-11-05

I used to be able to see the Twin Towers from this same window...


It's odd. Last Friday, when I saw my shrink (how I hate that word), I was telling him how I had been doing much better since the last appointment. My mood, I told him, was fairly stable, and I had not been badly depressed for two months. So I must have jinxed myself. Today I felt I was sinking; I was very busy teaching and that kept my head above water but now, tired and wrung out, I feel only despair and futility. I have no energy and no desire, no joy and no expectation. I want simply to be left alone. I feel bad for Y at a time like this. For who wants to be around me? I am a nightmare. But the problem is that when I am like this I need help. I need someone to hold me and reassure me that it will pass, that I will be ok, that the depression will go away, like a passing storm. If I could only make time disappear.



time passes

The weekend flew by. On Saturday Y and I met friends in Chelsea and went to Marianne Boesky Gallery to see the Nara show. I was not impressed. I don't understand Nara's appeal. I mean, it seems "cute" and is certainly not unpleasant, but I don't get the hype surrounding his work. I saw that in the same building, in the Julie Saul Gallery, a photographer I used to know from MacDowell was having a retrospective. She photographed me extensively one summer, swimming and floating in a lake, and used some of the photos in a book. She promised to give me a print, but she never did. Her photographs are beautiful. I wish I had pressed her to give me one. In the photos my skin is white as milk; and I float, faceless, like a ghost.


Saturday, September 10, 2005

Patsy update

Patsy loves to lie in the bathtub (empty of course). She is getting much bigger. She wrestles with Mabel. She plays with Tuna's tail. Tuna gets pissed, but he is getting more exercise running away with her. Pomona likes to ignore Patsy, but occasionally she pounces on the little one just to show who is boss.

patsy cline

Friday, September 09, 2005



My right hand shakes. Sometimes it is still, but when at rest it shakes to varying degrees. It was diagnosed by a neurologist as "essential tremor." This diagnosis was a relief, as it might have been something far worse. Still, it is embarassing at times. Yesterday at school I was pouring a cup of coffee and it shook so badly that I spilled coffee on myself and on the countertop. I hope people don't think I am an alcoholic or something.

Thursday, September 08, 2005


The situation in New Orleans shows that our government is a disgrace. I am ashamed to be part of a country that has enabled such a total lack of regard for human life.

the apple doesn't fall far from the tree

from a letter in today's New York Times:

To the Editor:

While touring the Astrodome in Texas, which is being used as a relocation site, Barbara Bush, the president's mother, made a comment that rivals "Let them eat cake" in its arrogant and clueless insensitivity.

"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway," she said, "so this is working very well for them" (news article, Sept. 7).

I always disliked Barbara Bush, when her husband George H.W. was president. She reminded me of ladies I knew from Pennsylvania; affluent, foul-mouthed, heavy smokers and drinkers, who treated people rudely and gossiped relentlessly.

Her remarks disgust me but do not surprise me at all.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


I just heard, on NPR, that "Congress" is greatly concerned about rising gas prices. What to do?

This amazes me. For the past several years, the highways and roads are clogged with people driving bloated SUVs with gas-guzzling engines. What does anyone expect? Such selfishness and idiocy makes me want to scream.



I read my post from last night, and I actually was going to delete it. But I decided to leave it alone. I do feel better this morning. I actually was able to sleep last night, after two almost sleepless nights, and that helps a lot.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Today I was very busy. Faculty meetings in the morning; same old stuff. Not too much exciting, although I am looking forward to teaching. The meetings, I could do without, as they say. But it was ok. I came home exhausted (I barely slept last night, the usual insomnia) and took a little nap with Tuna lying next to me. Then I went and moved the car. Then I came home and read the newspaper. Y. came and said that Friday night he had to go to a colleague's birthday dinner. This plunged me into a deep sense of sadness, one that had threatened to take over earlier today. Why was I sad? I was sad because I would not go to the dinner, because it would not be possible, because such is the nature of the world that he could not bring me to the dinner, and I felt tired and sick and beaten down by having to fight over these types of things, and having to feel weird and strange and bizarre, yes, even here in enlightened New York City, because I am not married with kids and a wife is not worth going on and on because these are the kinds of issues that we are supposed to have settled in ourselves years ago, as if the pain of all of that can just be rinsed off and abolished. I wish it were so simple. I couldn't even talk about it with him; it would not be fair and would do no good. He can not change these things any more than I can. And then I sat with my cat Pomona and saw how thin she has become, how clouded her old eyes are, and I think she is starting to waste away, maybe sick with something inside her, an old cat, so sweet and with me for so long, and I started to cry, and now I just want to sleep forever...

Wave Hill, part III

green hair
Wave Hill
yellow flowers

Louis I. Kahn

I watched a film, "My Architect." It was a documentary by Nathaniel Kahn, the illegitimate son of Louis I. Kahn, the architect who built the Salk Center in CA, among other fantastic buildings. He was never "popular," but he was a genius and his now regarded as perhaps the most important architect of the latter half of the last century. He reminded me of my teacher Ralph Shapey. Both were from Philadelphia (although Kahn was born in Estonia), Jewish, grew up poor. Each was an iconoclast and idealist in an increasingly commercial world, apolitical but ambitious, a misunderstood genius. They may have known each other, since both taught at University of Pennsylvania in the 1960s. Nathaniel Kahn's mother, a landscape architect who worked for Kahn, never married him. He had three children by three different women. His legitimate daughter, Sue Ann, is a prominent musician here in New York. Nathaniel did not know his father well, and made the film as a way of trying to know him.

It was a surprisingly moving film. I found myself on the verge of tears numerous times. And there is nothing I have seen, in modern architecture, that compares to the majesty and simple power of his buildings. Compared to his buildings, the slick style of Richard Meier and Robert A.M. Stern and Philip Johnson seems shallow. The only architect, for me, who comes close to Kahn is Tadao Ando from Japan. Like in Ralph Shapey's music, these men use the language of high modernism to express eternal truths about beauty and humanity and create work which has stunning spirituality. Now my dream is to go the Salk Center when it is deserted, and sit for a day, watching the light shift as I gaze out at the Pacific.

One of the most disturbing scenes in the film is an interview with a prominent Philadelphia architect and urban planner, last name Bacon, who oversaw some important developments in Center City, a job for which Kahn had made some proposals. Bacon rejected Kahn's work, saying that he did not understand urban architecture. Bacon's work is bland, lifeless, and encourages car traffic. Kahn had proposed a city center that encouraged walking, discouraged driving, and would have made stolid, dull Philadelphia a true center of architectural importance. His ideas were rejected, not only because they were too modern for a city which has been lorded over by dull conservatives, but also (it is implied) because Kahn was a Jew. Watching this bland WASP scoff at the work of a true genius was incredibly sad, but in the end Bacon just seemed like an ignorant, mean-spirited fool.

Monday, September 05, 2005


First I was late leaving. Then I got to Court Street and the R train was not stopping there. So I went to Borough Hall at Joralemon Street to take the 4-5. When I got there I found that I had picked up an expired metrocard from my desk, and had to buy a new one, although I had just bought one Saturday. Then I waited ten minutes for the train. Transferring to the local at Brooklyn Bridge seemed like a sure thing, as a 6 train was waiting. But it took ten minutes to leave the station. I was late to meet Bao. We went to Dok Suni where I used to go years ago when I was doing shows and rehearsing at PS122. I ordered a dish that was the hottest thing I had ever eaten. I love kimchi and Korean food but this was like the chef had taken a whole jarful of that red hot pepper sauce and dumped it in a bowl. I ate a little and could eat no more; I was sweating from the heat of the food.

We discussed depression and I didn't explain very well that sometimes, like a change in a weather pattern, I just am overwhelmed by a feeling of hopelessness, like nothing means anything, even when I can rationally understand that it's not true. Some people have troubles and never get depressed; come people have relatively few "troubles" and are depressed all the time. I said that in Vermont I felt better, more calm and more peaceful, and that the city was wearing on me. After all I am a country boy at heart. Bao was skeptical about me living in Vermont. He suggested that I try it out for a long period without committing; i.e. don't sell the apartment but sublet. A very good idea.

When I was going home, the R train stopped between stations and sat for fifteen minutes. I had drunk a beer and lots of water (trying to recover from the food) and I thought my bladder would burst. And there was a guy who appeared "normal," a college student maybe, who started talking to himself in a wildly animated way. He was sitting across the aisle from me and I tried not to look but it was adding to my agitation. My life is ruled sometimes by logistical difficulties. But I try not to let them get to me. It just seems that they really pile up sometimes.

Wave Hill, part II

zigzagbillow (II)copper beechpurple

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Wave Hill


Today I drove up to Riverdale in the Bronx, to Wave Hill. It is a beautiful old estate overlooking the Hudson, with elaborate gardens and a conservatory and a portico and walkways and this incredible mosaic, part of a sculpture of a tree trunk on a great lawn. Amazing.

tech support

My internet connection has been screwy since late last week. I keep getting disconnected, and sometimes I can't connect. I use a Macintosh and am quite well-versed in its workings, so I diagnosed things enough to tell me that the issue was not my computer, but most likely with the Earthlink network. I called Earthlink tech support to verify. The woman had me adjust some settings, but the problem persisted. I called again twice yesterday and explained that I had done all the testing and resetting myself and that I wanted to report a network problem. Another woman had me reset and adjust settings again (which I had already done; see above). The problem persisted. Finally this morning I called again, and the woman I spoke with (I think she was from India, or the Philipines) actually listened as I explained that I had already reconfigured my connection (several times!). So she did what I had asked all the others to do, and looked at the network and determined that there were "intermittent connection problems" across the network. That is what I had been trying to find out since Friday. So many phone calls...I try to be very patient with these kind of calls, because I imagine the phone helpers get a lot of rude irritated people screaming at them.

But it does make me want to scream, sometimes. I was thinking, this morning, that I hate the internet sometimes. It seems life was a lot easier before email and the internet and cellular phones. Even before answering machines...

Saturday, September 03, 2005

E. Vill.

atomic passion

Was the East Village always like a giant NYU dorm? Or am I just old? Or is my memory warped? But I think the answers are no, yes, and yes.

Walking around there today just made me want to go back to Brooklyn.




Surprisingly, or rather unexpectedly, I got my car back from the shop. I didn't expect to have it until next week some time. This means that I am not stuck for the holiday weekend. Maybe Y and I will go to the beach. Maybe to the NY Botanical Garden. Maybe Wave Hill. But gas is over $3 a gallon, so we won't go far.

Friday, September 02, 2005


Reading the papers and listening to the radio, I sit here in disbelief that this horrific situation is spiraling into mayhem; how can our government officials live with themselves, when they did so little to prevent the human damage from this hurricane? They knew it was coming; it was predicted to be violent and dangerous, and yet so many people were left in New Orleans because they lacked the means to escape before it hit. I am sure that some people tried to ride it out, but many more didn't have cars, or money, or a place to go. I think President Bush, VP Cheney, et al, should be dropped into the midst of New Orleans and forced to fend for themselves like so many of the people there. This is a disgrace.

Thursday, September 01, 2005


I keep getting these weird comments on my blog. They are really advertisements. I think it is something new: scammers post their links on whatever blogs they can find. I have deleted them. It's fine for anyone at all to comment, provided the comment has something to do with my blog. That's not too much to ask.


I know it is a cliché, but if I am having a bad day or feeling down or freaking out about some small thing (as I am inclined to do, since I am a bundle of nerves) I only have to think about the people down south and what they are going through, to realize that my problems are nothing.



Patsy is growing daily. She is also sleeping through most of the night, luckily.