Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Last evening I went to the Met to hear THE MAGIC FLUTE. I attended with RT. At dinner we enjoyed lots of gossip about various people we know in common, writers-artists-musicians whose paths we have both crossed. The opera was crowded; this is one of the most popular operas, and perhaps Mozart's easiest. That said, I almost fell asleep many times. In half-sleep with my eyes closed I could focus on the music, the surprising tonal structure, and avoid the distraction of the hideous staging and set. The conductor managed to make the orchestra, one of the world's best, sound surprisingly wan and ragged in the overture. The singing was only competent, rarely exciting. Even still the audience went nuts after the Queen of the Night's aria, though she was flat and had a course tone when singing the high notes. I found the direction by Julie Taymor, and the garish Disney-esque sets, at odds with the music. Coming home at almost midnight, I almost wished that I had stayed home and chilled with my menagerie.

I have never been a rabid opera fan, but comparing last evening to the incredible riveting experience of WOZZECK a few weeks ago, I realize that in order to enjoy it I have to pick and choose carefully.

Nam Jun Paik (1932-2006)

Monday, January 30, 2006


How do you bear
these open eyes
like the ones
you showed me,
a photograph from
thirty years ago?
No one knows
at age four
that fear evolves,
becoming yearning. So

Surprise me now.
Lay your fingers
on the neck
of this Spanish
guitar and pluck
showers of notes.
Now I smile.
In my smile
decades compressed show
a faint glimmer.


tuna and patsy

These two are very cute when they sleep curled up together. Patsy woke up when I brought the camera over. But she went back to sleep as soon as the photo shoot was over.

I, on the other hand, am so sleep-deprived that I could cry. Every night I wake up after sleeping a few hours with this dull awful pain in the middle of my back. I believe that I need a new mattress. I think I am finally so old that I will have to spring for the super-expensive extra extra firm model. When I wake up and stretch and move around the pain stops. But it is bad enough to wake me, night after night. Help!

Sunday, January 29, 2006


Yesterday was a beautiful day. I did not spend as much time outdoors as I should have. Today it is warm again, but raining. So I will stay in. Clean the apartment. Do some work. Rest. Brush Mabel and the cats.

Last evening I went to ML's parents' house for Chinese New Year's Eve dinner. The food was amazing. We drank quite a bit of wine before eating, so I was buzzed. It was a fun evening, but I ate too much.


Saturday, January 28, 2006

Friday, January 27, 2006

Happy Birthday

Today is the 250th birthday of W.A. Mozart. He wrote some of the most sublime, eerily perfect music of all time. Pianists fear performing Mozart's keyboard music because it is so crystalline and exposed that there is nowhere to hide; no pedal to step on and blur your inaccuracies; every smudged note is there for your audience to hear. It lacks the obvious virtuoso challenges of Chopin and Liszt. I have been playing Mozart at the piano all afternoon. There is something so unnaturally beautiful about it that it stuns me sometimes.


tuna 123104

Last night, for the first time in a while, I actually slept well. Maybe it is because my Tuna slept next to me. His breathing and his little snores helped me relax. He is the sweetest cat I have ever had. I love all my pets, and each one is unique. There is something so sweet and gentle about Tuna, even though he is giant among cats, the biggest I have ever seen. He is shrinking--he is sixteen and a half years old--but is still huge. He has never done a single mean or nasty thing in his life, at least nothing that I have been witness to. Even when Patsy crawls all over him or chews on his leg, he remains calm and patient.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


In the last six days I have been unable to sleep, eat, work, talk, socialize, or relax successfully.

The worst thing about feeling this way is that I can't tell anyone, really. If someone asks me how I am I just say I am fine. If I told the truth it would simply alienate people. There are a few very close to me to whom I will confess, but even with them I hold back, because I know that there is nothing anyone can say to improve my state, and I don't want them to feel bad. And I don't want to be shunned. So I lie.

Now, I've been lied to, and I know how awful it can be. But this is a harmless little lie. It does no ill to anyone really. Well, it does some harm to me, but I cannot hope for more help from anyone. And what am I to do, call my doctor? What good will that do?

I was supposed to see my regular doctor this evening for my usual tests (residue of a serious illness almost ten years ago) but I rescheduled because there was no way in hell I could deal with going into Manhattan and sitting in the waiting room and telling the doctor how fcking miserable I feel right now.

And I really did vow to myself that I would no longer use this blog to complain. So don't think of this as a complaint. It is just a report. I am reporting, not complaining.

It is like starving, that kind of wanting.
A limewire feeding, stretched throat skin
pulled taut as each flame pulses next
sputters. Then, in a quickening wrench of
muscle and tendon, the gulp.


vertical landscape, continued

I am hoping these colors make me feel warmer. It is freezing in my apartment. The wind cuts right through the windows; I never took the air-conditioner out and so the wind blows through it also. I slept from 9:30 last night until 6:30 this morning, with only a few interruptions by Patsy. That is a very long sleep for me. I feel somewhat groggy, but I clearly needed the rest. My head may be just a bit clearer today.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006



I am really having a hard time shaking this one. I think that I fool myself when I feel that I have recovered from past hurts, traumas, injuries. I thought I was over this one, but clearly I am not. Every moment when I am not distracted by work or practical matters, my mind races back and thrashes through the thoughts and memories that torture me.

On the bright side I just came from a meeting about the new project I am working on, music for a production of Sophocle's OEDIPUS AT COLONUS. I won't write much more about it at this early stage, but it is a project that I am very excited about. I hope I will be able to work well and successfully on it. I hope it might lift me out of this dark place.

phone call

How strange to ask
is there something you need to tell me
seeing that it was I who dialed the phone
and waited for you to pick up?

That question guarantees a no
because the premise on which it is based
supposes that you don’t want me to know

and though my words are not coded
nor written on the back of my hand still
they are more than mere hisses, faint plumes

of steam. As they merge into a subaudible
rumble they grow
strong, enough
to force the first cracks.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Albert Camus said that where there is no hope, one must invent it. I paraphrase after reading Elie Wiesel's paraphrase. I apologize for any inaccuracies.

Monday, January 23, 2006

the bright side

The last few days really do seem like some sort of giant cosmic joke.



In the last few days I have gone over the path I have taken the last five years. Over and over again I retrace my steps. If I knew then what I now know, I would have done things very differently. I, like most people, only wanted happiness and fulfillment. I tried to love to my fullest in the hope that it might be returned. Well, it didn't happen, and somehow, at the time I first knew it, I withstood the initial disappointment and just went along, continuing my path, feeling a bit mournful but not at all devastated. Why then am I revisiting all this now? It hits me hard. But I know that there is no point in second-guessing myself. I have learned the hard way, in the worst way possible, because I feel not only horrible regret but anger and tremendous sadness. It is like the slow glow of a fire that has been burning inside me, and is now growing more forceful. I should extinguish it. I hope I can.


And it does not really get any more perverse than this: no sooner had I finished writing what you have just read when the phone rings. I hesitate to answer, as the day has been long and tiring and stressful. But I see from the caller ID that it is R. who broke my heart so violently almost six years ago. So why not just face some more pain? I answer. He is happy. He has just moved into his new condo in ____________, a city where I would never live. But he hates the cold, loves warm weather. He is a tropical flower, I used to say. R. is a sweet guy, and after we parted, once I was able to talk to him--after a short period during which I would rather have had my tongue cut out than have to face him--I appreciated, and continue to appreciate, his friendship. But this evening talking to him seems like a continuation of the emotional torture I have felt since Saturday. More memories to plague me, memories of yet another time when I thought that I had found some happiness that might last. This evening I was good, though. While a few barbed statements escaped my mouth I think they missed him. I was generally amiable and interested to hear about his new place. He is a gentle and kind person, a wonderful doctor to his patients. I wish him the very best. I know I could have been happy with him, because seeing him once made my heart soar.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

don't ask/don't tell

There are things I want so badly to ask but I won't ask, things I want to tell but won't tell.

I ask myself these things, and in doing so I torture myself. If I had never met you, how much happiness might I have had? If I had never met you, would my heart be any stronger? If I had never met you, would I have this sinking feeling of despair that hits me between the shoulder blades when I least expect it? I don't ever wish to regret, believing that everything that has happened just happened, that there is no turning it back or turning it around of making it disappear. But yesterday, and so much more today, there is nothing I want more than to make entire nights, days, months, years disappear and leave me be.

"But I have nothing to say. My lips are sealed." (David Byrne, "Psycho Killer")

It is always a surprise, no matter
how many times it happens: in a city
of eight million people how is it that
you run into your friend on a crowded
street in early evening? That you are both
headed somewhere, in opposing directions,
purposeful. And yet, when you see each other
you stop for a graceful moment, smiling
and happy in this serendipity.

So then it is not a surprise that we are
more close than we suspect. You are
him to him as to me, but who might have
ever guessed it? A freak of geography. I decide
if to tell would leak a confidence, provide
another reason for sour dismay, lift
my heart from my chest, where it belongs,
to my throat where it struggles to escape.
Together (we know or not) we all dance.

empty, frozen

I was doing well yesterday, waking up early and cleaning my apartment and doing various little things that had to be done. Then in the afternoon I learned something that plunged me back into the morass of last spring, when I could barely think straight. I am now in a dizzy state of sadness, disbelief, disappointment and anger.

But I have a very busy week ahead, and I hope this will keep my mind occupied so that I don't become depressed or too anxious.

Telling the truth is too hard for some people, and self-deceit can be seductive because it protects you both in your own mind and in your relationships with others. But it is destructive ultimately. See what has happened now?

Sorry to be so cryptic. But the actual facts are only necessary for the individuals involved, and out of respect for my own privacy and theirs I will keep them to myself.


Saturday, January 21, 2006

"conceptual artist"


I used to make these toothpick sculptures as a kid. A few years ago I started the one in this picture, but have not worked on it in some time.

When I was a kid I made sculptures that were tall and resembled strange, organically-shaped buildings. I would spend hours and hours on each one.

Sometimes, when I had finished one, I would take it into the back yard of our house and light it on fire. As it burned its skeleton outline would glow red.

Friday, January 20, 2006


Words cannot accurately describe how lousy I feel (physically).


Thursday, January 19, 2006

Clobbered by another allergy attack, I sit here with my head aching, congested; I must have sneezed one hundred times. I was with a friend at dinner when it struck.

I had my first appointment with my new psychiatrist today and it went well. I think this might be a good choice.

plant study 45

Wednesday, January 18, 2006



I have not slept much in two days. I can't fall asleep without a great deal of trouble, and I have been waking up every hour or so. Then, once I have fallen into a deep sleep, my back hurts so much that I wake up. So yesterday teaching was torturous, although I maintained a façade of normality. Today it might be more difficult to do so, since my tiredness has increased exponentially.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006



My Patsy is a supermodel of the cat world. Look at her beautiful eyes.

Monday, January 16, 2006


still life

I accomplished some good things this weekend. I rearranged my desk, replacing the glass top with a much larger black one; the glass is now on my dining table, expanding it and improving its shabby look. The desk gives me a better space for working. I also realized, while lamenting how absent-minded I am (always misplacing things then frantically, obsessively searching for them) that I rarely am focused on the thing I am doing while I am doing it. Instead I am thinking of something else. So I confuse myself. If I could be more present in the thing I am doing I could negotiate my life with less stress, I think. So I am trying now to think differently.



Some have remarked that I never smile in photographs. It is true. I don't know why. I feel strange, smiling as I get my picture taken. But I do smile at other times.


I missed posting yesterday, perhaps for the first time since I started this blog. Or maybe it was not the first time. I spent the day driving around Brooklyn, something I rarely do. I went to Sheepshead Bay and ate the best Vietnamese food I have found in NYC. Then I bought groceries.

My lovely car is doing some strange electrical things; buttons pushed set off other buttons. Hmmm. I think my car may be possessed. But I love it all the same.


Saturday, January 14, 2006


There is a raging storm and the wind is howling outside my windows.

There is a raging storm in my head and my thoughts are howling too.


Thursday, January 12, 2006


How could I ever have suspected that you
would wield your politeness like a weapon?
I realize now that I was playing your game,
unwittingly. So I was bound to lose.
If you are always right then I am always wrong.

No wonder I so often had this dream:
I am a student again, and the semester is ending.
Wait! Tomorrow morning I must take my Italian exam
but I did not know I was in an Italian class.
(I told you once that I have these dreams)

Perhaps you put them there to stoke my sleep
with worry, to dry my mouth with fear, to elicit
the cold sweat of night-tremors. Thank you,
I say. I bow, I look down (not in your eyes,
for to look upon you that way that is impolite).

down, maybe coming up


Last evening, feeling so low, I drugged myself to sleep at 8:30. I could not stand to be awake anymore, because I was consumed by dark thoughts. Sleep brings some relief, mostly because I am not thinking. I did have a very strange dream, though. At 4 am I woke up, as I have been doing lately, with my back killing me. Do I need a new bed? I think I do, but I can't afford to buy one.

This morning I might feel a bit better. When I was walking Mabel just now I felt like it would not be a bad day.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Following the lead of Wandering Medusa:
Accent: none. I have no Philadelphia accent, no Brooklyn accent.
Breakfast: coffee
Chocolate or chips: definitely chocolate
Dad's name: starts with R
Essential everyday item: eyeglasses, eyedrops
Favorite film: "The Sweet Hereafter"
Gold or Silver: silver
Ice cream flavor: chocolate chocolate chip
Job: composer/pianist/teacher
Kids: none
Living arrangements: me, my three cats and my dog
Mother's birthplace: Bethlehem, PA
Number of Significant Others: don't go there
Overnight Hospital Stays: three (1971, 1996, 1997)
Phobia: heights, crowds
Queer: yes
Rock or Pop: little of both
Siblings: two, plus four step-
Time I wake up: 5:45. I never need an alarm clock. If I decide to wake at 5, I will, on my own
Unnatural hair colors I've worn: I bleached my hair once and turned it silver-yikes
Vegetable I refuse to eat: none
Worst habit: smoking (although I rarely do now)
X-rays: Teeth mostly. Knee and chest
Yummy: depends on my mood.
Zodiac: Aquarius (of course)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

it's back!


After taking a week or so vacation, my left eye has begun twitching and dancing again. It is driving me nuts. It's as if it has a mind of its own, as it jumps and bobs up and down. Help!

Monday, January 09, 2006

nice while it lasted

Well, my "normal mood" of yesterday was greatly appreciated, and quite nice while it lasted. Today I am manic, or rather hypomanic, my mood exaggerated, talking too fast, mind racing, feeling irritable and snappish but also outgoing, quite the opposite of my darker self.

I wish there were something I could do when I feel like this to tone it back down to yesterday's normal, fully functional self. But instead I feel like I am holding on with both hands to the back of a speeding car.

I may go swim in a bit. Physically exhausting myself would help. But I have a lot of work to do, and might just have to stay in and do it. I can swim tomorrow. If past patterns are any indication, this stage won't last more than a day or so at best.

Sunday, January 08, 2006



Today I feel much better. I had a good evening last night, and I slept better also. My mood is greatly improved. I am sleepy after a short trip into Manhattan to do some errands. I will take a nap now, after I walk Mabel.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

shut down

board, window and shadow

Yesterday I felt awful. I was exhausted from not sleeping and depression. I could do nothing. I was afraid that I might see someone and have to speak, that I would open my mouth to do so and no sound would emerge. So I stayed inside. Mabel was mad at me because there was no long walk. I couldn't do it. I slept all afternoon, slept past the point where I felt tired, slept until my head ached and my eyes burned. In the evening I forced myself awake, and then drank coffee and smoked a bit, and felt a burst of energy. I called E____ to see if he wanted to have dinner. I went to the EVill and met him. I was feeling pretty manic, talking too much and overly animated, so I drank two beers before eating to take the edge off. We wanted to eat sushi but all the local places were packed with what looked to me like high school students. The East Village is like one giant NYU dormitory now.

We ate thai food then hung out for a while until I abruptly left. I wanted to ride the subway, I looked forward to it in fact, but the L train was not running. I had to take a taxi, which cost $14. I slept and dreamed of flooded houses in Vermont. One house had a group of people standing inside (I was looking into the window) chest-deep in water, holding umbrellas over their heads. This morning when Patsy and Mabel woke me I felt like I could scream.

Listening to NPR I heard a segment about new discoveries about SSRI antidepressants, and how it might be possible to concoct one that will be as fast-acting as ibuprofen or tylenol. Imagine! If I were feeling like I was yesterday and last night and most of the time, I could take a pill and instantly--well, almost instantly--feel better. But I felt better when I first started taking antidepressants all those years ago. But now I feel back in the same place.

Friday, January 06, 2006

please stop please

Ok, for the last four days I have had a headache. It went away for a short time on Wednesday, but came back with a vengeance Thursday. Additionally, my allergies have been horrific, and the last two nights I have hardly slept because I am sneezing so much. Finally, at 4 am today, I took two benadryl (I had been taking sudafed, which only makes me feel crazy and does little for my symptoms) and another 100mg of trazodone, after which I fell into a deep sleep and dreamt that I was in California at a pumpkin farm at the edge of the ocean.


Thursday, January 05, 2006



Tuesday evening I attended an unforgettable performance of Berg's opera WOZZECK at the Met. It was a brilliant production, with incredible singers and amazing set designs. The orchestra, one of the world's best, played the difficult score with phenomenal detail and color. I was so inspired watching James Levine--the conductor--eliciting such powerful playing with such subtle gestures.WOZZECK is a very intense opera, a truly tragic and haunting story, and this production was as good as one could possibly hope for. If you live in or around NYC, Friday night is the last performance.

I attended with an old acquaintance, an artist who now lives in California. He calls himself a "conceptual artist." This is a term that makes me bristle. I am a conceptual artist. Every artist I know is a conceptual artist. I don't know one serious artist who is not investigating and searching some kind of conceptual world. I find the term so pretentious that I found myself barely stifling snide comments while we caught up. In fact, at one point I could not resist and said something so acid and double-edged that I would not be surprised if he never speaks to me again (there were other reasons for my bad humor toward this guy, but I will not divulge the details). But I stand by my belief. Any artist who creates is creating work that expresses a concept, a belief system. What "conceptual artists" do is find it necessary to provide a manifesto to explain their otherwise inscrutable work. In my humble opinion, good art does not require an explanation, but rather an open-minded viewer. Explanation from the artist, to me, denigrates the artwork.

The unfortunate fact is that these "conceptual artists" populate the faculties of universities all over, teaching "conceptual art" to young aspiring artists, many of whom could not produce a painting or sculpture of any refinement. Without technique, without craft, art is meaningless.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


The much-hyped singer/songwriter Nellie McKay has been dropped by her record label. Surprise. It happens to most acts, after a first record, when the record company does not foresee big profits in continuing the relationship. In this case, though, I don't understand how she got signed in the first place. At the risk of sounding bitchy, there is not much to her, other than a glib and clever personality. But this does not translate into good music. Just go the iTunes music store and check out her stuff. I don't get it.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


I feel like I am a spring stretched so far I am about to snap. If I had a support system then I could snap, or fall, or melt down (pick the euphemism you prefer). Lacking that, though, such a melt down would be a disaster.

Walking Mabel this morning I stepped out of the way of a couple with their dog and child who had stopped directly in front of me. As I did so I heard a whispered snarled curse, and then who passed me on my left but a man who lives up the street in his immaculate brownstone. I often see him and his pale scared wife walking to church. He looks like a guy who is so tightly wrapped that he might just explode. All his church-going is obviously not imbuing his soul with love for his fellow man. He is usually muttering to himself, a grimace on his gray mustached face. I told "excuse me" politely as he passed by, but he did not acknowledge me, just kept on his way, cursing under his breath.

So I think I am better shape than him. This summer he has the brownstone replaced on his stoop, and he spent the whole time sitting watching the workmen. I imagine he was waiting for them to make a mistake. He does not seem to work. He sweeps his steps several times a day.


I am back to teaching today. And Tuesday is my busiest day of the week. And to make it even busier, tonight I will go the Metropolitan Opera to see WOZZECK by Alban Berg. I wrote my doctoral thesis on Berg's "Drei Orchesterstücke." I am very excited to see the opera, which I have only seen once before in Chicago. I have listened to it countless times though.

Teaching gives me obligations to fulfill: I have to be there at a certain time and perform certain jobs and be energetic. It is very good for me. I am a very responsible person, when the responsibilities are external.


Monday, January 02, 2006

Sunday, January 01, 2006



I have come to realize that my eyes are green. I used to think they were brown. Then I thought that they were hazel. They do change color some, but the spectrum, I have decided, is green. And my sister gave me a sweater as a gift. It was a moss color, very nice. I had to return it because it was too big for me, and I could not find another green one. I told my sister that I had to get a grey one instead. "You always wear grey and black," she told me in a sisterly way. "That sweater matched your eyes."

about me (for a change)

je bw

Rather than write some homily about the wonder of the new year and all that, I will present my new theory that I have been contemplating for a while now.

I was thinking that I was depressed in part because I was lonely, but now I realize that is wrong. I don't mind solitude. I have friends. I could go out more and do things; there are people around that I can call. I used to have a vigorous social life. I would never have spent new year's eve at home by 10, by myself.

But because I am depressed, I can't muster up the energy/courage/commitment it takes to have the kind of socially busy life and relationships that would keep me busy and prevent my feeling cut off from the people around me. I have isolated myself and thus I am lonely. In a way this this realization comes as a relief. I don't feel any better; my depression cloaks me like a heavy cape and I just long to disappear. But at least I don't blame myself so much. After all, after a childhood that was both emotionally and pragmatically turbulent in a family that had more than its share of the variously mentally ill, how could I ever expect to be stable?