Excerpt from my Letter to Kimber, 21 December 2006

"...in spite of the rhetoric, nothing's any cheerier because of these ridiculous holidays. In my experience, everything just gets that much more complicated and tiresome. My families are all emotionally riotous. Dealing with people in general takes five times as much energy and time to get anything done. People drive around in a hypercaffeinated panic, ruthlessly poaching parking spots in their grim quests for Christmas baubles. Just about the only thing I do enjoy about this time of year is the weather.

Bracing, palpable cold! Watching cheeks flush, feeling the atmosphere countervail my usually burdensome body heat when I'm cycling up the long hills or navigating the clumsy car traffic. Misting breath punctuating animated conversation. The panoply of functional accessories; scarves and gloves, hats and coats lending dignity, and a calmer mystique, to the roiling sexuality of fashion (it's so much more erotic to imagine what might be underneath, as opposed to seeing everything at first glance). Economy of movement and exposure means that a lot of things are more considered and deliberate; the frivolous stay indoors and wait for warmer weather. And so then sunlight is more precious, more noticeably appreciable. When the sun does go down, it's blankets and coffee, a world that hoards and savors warmth..."




Dispatch from the Longship of Glory

Truly epic weather has descended upon Portland. These days, my commute typically encompasses me on my bike, descending the long slope of Hawthorne Blvd. into the river and across the bridge, and then ascending the long-buried watercourses that Portland's downtown core has long since stratified into a grid of asphalt streets and paving bricks.

Tonight, Odin the All-Father thought best to send a mother of a storm from over the seas, lashing the bridges with 60 mph winds and rain that bites with chainsaw-teeth. There are streetlights that toss on the wind like ribbon right now. Stormclouds are rolling across the skies. Trees are swaying exultantly. Walking indoors with soaking raiment and helmet emblazoned with soaked leaves and twig-scratches, it's like disembarking from the longship of glory.

Recently I realized that a lot of my friends process things verbally, and I don't necessarily do so, and that this might be why I constantly feel as though I put more energy into my friendships (paradoxically enough) than I get from them. Usually this is okay, but I must needs be careful to avoid the habitual resentment and frustration that seeps into things whenever I usually feel as though I'm being taken advantage of (damn chauvinist pride won't let me suck it up and be a chump every once in a while). (Point being that it's important to recognize the friendships I choose, and that the personal cost of friendship is a choice I must own.)

The whole time I was fighting and climbing against the wind and rain, I could not stop smiling. I hope this weather lasts a good long while.




As part of my ongoing expedition to Master All Trades, I'm now a barista for a luxury chocolate cafe here in Portland. We're opening a shop in the downtown mall, which will be new for me. Since I've experience wrestling drunks and staring down cops at the local drunk tank, and also appeasing unruly patrons at the Library, and wielding puppets in Idaho, I'm rather looking forward to mastering the intricacies of high quality chocolate truffles and meticulously composed lattes fifty feet away from the Santa Claus kiosk. For a change.




I know, O gentle reader. I failed miserably in my attempt at National Blog Posting Month. I just wasn't good enough, and I entirely misjudged my resolve to post every day. I am a bad, bad polyformer.

But it was not for lack of trying; my screwy-ass laptop is still in the shop. My scattered-ass life is still remarkably scattered. I remain skating adroitly along the seams of insolvency.

I wish I could write that I've moved farther along from the benighted territories that I've been travelogue-ing for so long here on Polyform, but I haven't. I'm still here, lost in the tall grass, ploughing away at the dark, rich, fecund and somewhat smelly earth that is the substance of me. (Perhaps I've gotten more obtuse.)

There is enough pride and joy on a day-to-day basis to keep me going; there is more than enough shame and anxiety, when it comes to the larger picture, to give me pause. I could narrate details for you, but I reckon it would be tedious and repetitive, and it wouldn't necessarily do any good.

What gets me through, what makes it all better on balance, are the quiet moments I spend on my bike in the middle of the night, commuting home, or (and I know how crazy this sounds) the enforced silence of commuting by car, when I'm stuck in traffic and I can't do anything else but turn up or turn down the radio and wait for the logjam of cars in front of me to break. It's the moments in-between, the pauses and the in-breaths, that get me through. They tell me that everything else, all the other little anguishes and the little delights are but as those same moments before, and that somehow everything always leads to something else, one way or another, sooner or later.

Books I'm Reading:

Caesar's Gallic Wars
"The Sea" by John Banville
"Erotism" by Georges Bataille
"The Radicalism of the American Revolution" by Gordon S. Wood
"Romeo and Juliet" by Wild Bill Shakespeare

Listening to:

"Swordfish Trombones," Tom Waits
"Half the Perfect World," Madeleine Peyroux
Baz Luhrman's R & J soundtrack


Stumptown Coffee.


Excerpt from my Letter to Theresa, 24 November

"...Speaking of which, I almost died last night. I was biking home from the music place, and this car suddenly stops in front of me. At first I thought it was going to park in a spot beside me, so I swerved to pass it on its left; without signaling either way, the car then suddenly veers towards me, making to sideswipe me, and I had a split-second prescience that I was about to be badly hurt--I'm serious, I started to feel myself go numb. Using my classically-trained voice, I yelled "WOOOOAAARGGH" (which is wookie for "You May Break My Body But You Will Not Break My Implacable Spirit, Which Will Haunt Your Miserable Kith and Kin For the Rest of Your Unnatural Days"), and the car screeches, leaving me just inches to clear its front bumper. Inside were a bunch of girls obviously going clubbing, and they were all gasping in fear and astonishment. The driver had her hands to her mouth, which is, I would venture, not the best idea when you're controlling a moving vehicle. I have no idea what kind of traffic maneuver she was trying to pull off; best I can think is that she was trying to do a mid-street u-turn, even though it's a one-way street. I glanced back daggers and kept on pedaling. And for the rest of the ride home I thought about health insurance and how many more lights I could possibly fit on my person. .."



An Eventful Weekend

On Thursday I joined another show at ART, "Inspecting Carol." They needed a sound board op at the last minute and I owe the production manager over there more than a few favors, so I took up the call with alacrity. Sound Board involves things like pressing buttons quickly and preventing small catastrophes from turning into big ones. It's a paycheck, and I'm loyal to the best elements of ART. Plus, I like wearing black. It streamlines some of the more complicated considerations for me, like, say, dressing myself before going out into the world.

On Sunday, I was assigned to understudy a castmember in the event that the worst should come to happen, and someone has to miss a show for health reasons. My previous experience of the grueling ART performance schedule leads me to expect that I will be needed onstage at some point.

In the midst of the long tech rehearsals for "Carol", friends from SF were in town for someone's wedding, and I played host to them in my disheveled house through the wee hours of the night. And then there was the breakfast with Randall, the meeting with Emily-Jane, the late night tryst with T, the repeated airport missions, and so forth.

Late now on Sunday night, I'm overjoyed to discover that I have no shows planned for tommorrow. Tommorrow is the first true non-working-day I've had since before Metamorphoses. (Almost every other day has involved shuffling or accommodating for some other stressful piece of my whacked out world.) I'd recorded this in my book of days, but I'd forgotten about it until I actually checked my schedule tonight, and lo and behold the only engagement I have listed, is donating plasma to the Red Cross at 2:30.

Planning on attending a playwrights' workshop in the evening. Oh but it will be lovely to sleep in.



I tell you, there is virtue in singing badly.

I had dinner and some drinks with my good friend Erika tonight, one of my best friends in the world. We compared notes on the whole 'being-a-grown-up' thing. We ate pizza and drank beer. And then, because it was right next door, we went to the karaoke bar where I introduced her to that strange little piece of me that loves to sing badly.

I pulled out my old standard, Ray Charle's "What'd I Say", because it's still my strongest piece. And I tried Rick James' 'Superfreak' for the first time, which sucked, but it was still great fun. And then we played Pac-Man for a bit and then I came home.

In my job search, as in any object in which I approach things as a supplicant of some kind, it takes something from me to humble myself before someone else's requirements. I'm not saying that's a bad thing; it's good, indeed, to submit in a fair exchange of labor and experience. But it costs a little something from me, and it was important to have a good meal with a very close friend and then to unleash my inner soul brotha even if only for long enough to know that I will never make it to Motown in this life, alas.

Erika had never seen my karaoke-monster before. She was very pleased at my appetite for public humiliation.




I'm looking for an extra part-time job to supplement my sadly anemic income stream right now.

  • I'd like to actually make more money than I spend doing said occupation.
  • Must not involve murdering or torturing small children or animals. (I've had quite enough of that particular career track, thank you very much.)
  • No gratuitous anaesthetization of my soul, please.
Possible candidates thus far:
  • Deliver papers at the butt-crack of dawn.
  • Drive trucks to deliver papers to the people who deliver papers at the butt-crack of dawn.
  • Sexton for a progressive church.
  • Dispatch trucks for a manufacturing company.
  • Appointment Setter for an alternative health care concern.
  • Addiction/Detox worker for a nonprofit.
  • Sales clerk for a chocolate boutique.

Looking for a job is fun, in that deadening, grimly sardonic sort of way. In the meantime, I'm posting a lot here to 1) make up for those lost months and 2) participate in National Blog Posting Month. Because I'm Just That Cool. (I'll put up the logo decal in a little bit.)

Please, save your craven, petty, overwrought and jealous passions for later.




What is it about the freeway at night that I like so much? Those who know me well are often taken aback when I say anything about how much I like to drive. Especially at night. Whenever I find myself in a fitful, troubled mood, as often as not it's the open road that calms me down.

Portland is veined with a slender net of freeways; I-5 running roughly parallel to the Willamette River, south to north; I-205 that branches east from I-5 and then continues north as well; I-84 bisecting I-5 to the east and Hwy. 26 likewise to the west; and the small belt of I-405 that donuts around the downtown core on the west bank of the Willamette.

Best thing to do, when I'm restless and heady with portentous ideas, is to drop into gear and just drive, sorting it all out from behind my dashboard.

I suppose I like driving at night because I'm less likely to break things than in daylight. Yesterday I busted up the van I drive for the children's theatre I now work for: in my defense, the traffic barrier was well below my line of sight, and this van is pretty beat up already. But I might have done some serious damage to the alignment or the transmission train or some such; none of the gear readings in the dashboard dial correspond to the actual gear the van happens to be in at any given time anymore. And the steering wheel is pretty broadly innaccurate, too. We're taking the van into the shop on Thursday. Fortunately, when you're as experienced as I am in breaking things, you learn to take these matters in stride.





League of Monster Voters

Here in the great state of Oregon, we get to fill out our ballots and mail them in, as opposed to waiting in long lines on Election Day with little or no preparation. The luxury of having over two weeks to cast our ballots means we actually get the opportunity to make informed decisions on our statewide initiatives. These silly-ass statewide initiatives, by the way, are the bane of my existence. Someone needs to take the business end of a two-by-four to that coterie of dumbass chuckleheads who keep forging signatures so they can put really stupid and obscure measures all over our ballots.

So I'm filling out my ballot with my girlfriend at a bar (what could be more patriotic than that?). And one of those said silly-ass statewide initiatives was at hand, and we were talking about which way to vote (I'd go into the details, but it would take forever and it would give me a headache.) After hashing it around for a bit (like a mouthful of dry gin), I came up with what I thought was a pretty convincing and definitive case for voting against the measure. She didn't quite jump on board right away, so she looked up the online League of Women Voters position on the same measure, and lo and behold but the League of Women Voters endorsed my position point-by-point. She was impressed, and I'm pretty proud that both myself and the League of Women Voters came to the exact same nuanced and deliberative position quite independent of one another.

Now I'm going to relax by conspicuously consuming some apple pie.


paulmonster-league of splendor


An Open Letter to Late October.

Dear Late October,

You have persisted in throwing extraordinary, highly volatile and emotionally contradictory circumstances directly at my beautiful face for quite some time. Now, I am not a vain man, but neither am I a man of infinite patience. If you continue in your utterly bewildering and quite frankly exhaustive behavior, I shall be forced to take certain stern measures, which neither you nor I find particularly pleasant to contemplate. You may put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Otherwise, you're doing very fine work with the leaves and all. Keep it up.




I have been a reluctant blogger lately, mostly due to my sadly incapacitated laptop.

But more than this, I've lost even the seldom habit of blogging.

I'm in a strange place. These past months are distant and unmoored to me, both immediate and removed. They are like the figures seen through the lit windows of neighbors' houses at night. I can almost reach through and live there.

A friend of mine has written a play about, among a great many other things, a woman who helps her grandmother to die, and then sets about physically altering her appearance even as she emotionally attempts to deconstruct her identity. Reading the play stirred some turbulent things in me.

I'm often lost, prone to breaking things, happy in my books and in my friends, nervous and scared of this new relationship that's brewing nearby, relieved and wistful for a play I've just closed...

More updates soon enough.



It's been a long three weeks since last I posted. Internet access has been scanty at best. For those of you peeking in from abroad, Metamorphoses is running with considerable, water-less success. Things are going well, though with more than a dash of that hectic-spice.

I have a new job performing for children again. I'm doing odd jobs on the side to supplement my modest income. My letters are longer even as my posts here are fewer. More soon.




Most Surreal Week Ever

Whenever my very good friend Wild Pirate Jenny comes to town, disastrous things happen. Freak ice blizzards. Debilitating heat waves. Pools breaking. When she goes to New York, it's worse: once she took out the power grid for the whole Eastern Seaboard.

This time around, she came to Portland and my computer died, the Metamorphoses pool broke and I lost my job (through entirely understandable and amicable circumstances, but still highly inconvenient for me). I made the mistake of playing two games of pool with her and I ended up having to wear a skirt all day Thursday.

Just prior to a highly emotional cast meeting (in which we were asked to accept the absence of the water), a tech from the second theatre space in the building came running down to get me. Upstairs, a Japanese theatre company was rehearsing another show, and one of their castmembers had dislocated her shoulder. As the (uncertified) EMT in the building, I rushed upstairs to find a circle of Japanese women sitting around a weeping young woman, with her shoulder looking funny, the way dislocated shoulders do. They were a bit startled by my Bacchus tiger-print skirt, but once I explained who I was they seemed to calm down a bit, more or less.

I made sure she hadn't broken anything, doing my best to explain myself through three translators. I was checking her wrist and elbow, in case there was anything else going on in those joints, when suddenly she started laughing and weeping all at once. All around us, the circle of sad Japanese women erupted in joyous applause. The dour, fierce-looking choreographers and technicians started smiling and nodding. Utterly lost, I turned to the tech who'd run down to find me, and he was just as stumped as I. Apparently, her shoulder had just popped back into place of its own accord, and now everyone thinks I'm a faith healer. She clung to me with her head in my lap while I tried to explain that she should put some ice on her shoulder. Mystified, I made my way back downstairs to the tense, emotional cast meeting, and the rest of this surreal week.

Before she could do further damage, Wild Pirate Jenny left for Denver yesterday morning, and we opened the show with those same acres of silk we've been rehearsing with. Fodder enough for another post later.

In spite of all, I am reveling in these swelling currents, riding the crest of these endless waves. More soon.


paulmonster-yubiwa hotel


Ups and Downs

I just lost my job today. This job that I've loved for three months, which beat the crap out of me emotionally and financially, just wasn't a good fit from my supervisors' point of view (well-meaning euphemisms, of course, but I have the utmost respect for them for all their honesty and flexibility).

It's a release for me, because I have been struggling at it. I've been doing my best to make things work better, but my best just wasn't enough for it. And that's okay. They've given me the opportunity to resign, which is good of them.

I will miss my residents most of all.

I am embracing the opportunity to rest.

more soon,


ps--'Metamorphoses' Opening Friday!!! GAAAAAHHHH!!!!


The Glorious Century

I rode the Portland Century yesterday. It took me out the back way, pulled out nearly 1100 feet of elevated whup-ass and beat me like a Michael Jackson video for about 7 hours. My riding partner was my castmate, Jeff.


Waiting in Line.

Me: Look at all these people.
Jeff: The guy said that there are five times as many people here as they expected.
Me: That's cool.
Jeff: These guys are pretty hardcore.
Me: Yeah.
Jeff: They got the spandex get-up and everything.
Me: Well, if you're into that sort of thing.
Jeff: I'm just wearing jogging shorts.
Me: It gets the job done.
Jeff: Probably be just fine.
Me: You know, I've got an extra pair of padded cycling shorts if you want them.
Jeff: Hm. Maybe I'll take you up on that.
Me: It feels like you're wearing diapers for a bit, but then you get used to it.
Jeff: It obviously works for all these guys.
Me: Well, if you're into that sort of thing.


Mile 1

Me: Okay, the map says we start at the Hawthorne Bridge.
Jeff: But the bridge is up.
Me: Oh.
(Time passes.)
Me: It's not going down.
Jeff: Nope.
Me: Let's go another way.


Mile 5

Jeff: Well, I think we're back on the course now.
Me: Yeah, I think so.
Jeff: Oh, look, there are other guys with tags and things.
Me: Cool.


Mile 10. The First Rest Stop.

Me: Ooh, the rest stops have peanut butter! And jelly! Peanut butter and jelly!


Mile 14

Jeff: I don't see anyone else.
Me: That's because we're so fast.
Jeff: Uh-oh. It's already 10:30.
Me: Well, we'll pick up a bit after this. Remember, we had all those streets and things. And we kind of made up that first bit.
Jeff: Sure.
Me: Look, bluebirds!


Mile 18

Me: So, do you think the tree grew in the barn, and then pushed it's way out the roof, or do you think the roof collapsed and then the tree flourished?
Jeff: Hmmmm.


Mile 20

Me: Well, that was a hill.
Jeff: Yup.
Me: Think there's more of them?
Jeff: Probably one or two. The guide said there wouldn't be too many of 'em.


Mile 21

Me: Uh-oh.
Jeff: Yeah.


Mile 22

Me: Strong like Ox!!
Jeff: .


Mile 23

Me: Thanks for waiting for me.
Jeff: No problem.


Mile 24

Jeff: Where the hell are we?
Me: .


Mile 25

Me: You tuck your knees and your elbows in and you hunch down over the handlebars, and it's more aerodynamic that way.
Jeff: You're crazy.


Mile 26

Me: Oh no!
Jeff: We can do it, just keep climbing, keep climbing!
Me: [gutteral, whimpering sound of dismay]


Mile 26.5

Me: I think we're in Ohio now.


Mile 27. The Second Rest Stop.

Me: What do you mean THERE'S NO MORE PEANUT BUTTER!?!?!
Some Guy at the Rest Stop: Well, I guess people ate it all already.
Jeff: But we haven't seen hardly anybody else on the ride.
SGatRS: That's because they all passed through before you.
Me: What do you mean they all...?
SGatRS: Well, they didn't want to get caught in the noon heat.
Jeff: [looks at me].
Jeff: Well, at least we're all done with the hills.
SGatRS: That's right.
Me: Yeah, thank goodness.
SGatRS: Sure.
Jeff: I mean, the guide said there'd be a couple of hills, but those were nasty.
SGatRS: Yup. No more hills. Except for that one.
Jeff: What?
Me: [drops banana]
Jeff: But isn't that in Washington?
SGatRS: Nope. No. No. Not quite.
Jeff: Well, but aren't we just going to the river...?
SGatRS: Certainly. And the river is just on the other side of that ridge.

[Time passes]

Jeff: Ready to go?
Me: [Eyeing beautiful British cycling girl in black riding tights with freckles on her shoulders] Not really. But okay.


Mile 27.1

Me: Oh my.
Jeff: .
Me: [humming Journey's "Don't Stop Believing."]


Mile 27.2

Jeff: Well, that has to be the end of it.
Me: distantly ...don't stop be-lieeeving...


Mile 27.3

Jeff: Okay, That's Just Wrong.
Me: But you said that was the--that there weren't gonna be any more--oh no.


Mile 27.4

Me: I'm just going to stop for a sec.
Jeff: Okay.
Me: Just for a sec.
Jeff: I'm out of water already.
Me: Where the hell are we?


Mile 29

Me: Thanks for waiting.
Jeff: No problem.


Mile 34

Me: Strong like Ox!
Jeff: It's not my legs so much as my butt. My butt really hurts.
Me: My leg keeps twitching. See?
Jeff: That can't be good.
Me: At least you're wearing the padded cycling shorts. Think how much your butt would hurt if you weren't.
Jeff: I actually don't really want to think about my butt anymore than I have to right now.


Mile 37

Me: Well, this is more like it.
Jeff: If it stays like this, we can make up for lost time.
Me: Those grandmothers keep passing us.
Jeff: Yes, but the important thing is that we keep passing them, too.
Me: They don't call it the granny-gear for nothing.
[A hill appears.]
Jeff: Uh-oh.
Me: Don't say that.
Jeff: But it doesn't look like it's curving down.
Me: Oh no.


Mile 41

Me: I haven't seen anyone else from our ride since the grandmothers passed us.
Jeff: I know.
Me: Do you think we missed the next Rest Stop already?
Jeff: I was wondering that. I hope not.
Me: Me too.


Mile 44

Jeff: Okay, that hill has to be the last one before the river. It has to be.
Me: I say we stop at that mini-mart and fill up our water bottles again before we tackle that hill.
Jeff: Yeah.

[At the Mini-Mart]

Me: I'm just saying, if push comes to shove, we can use the bus tickets.
Jeff: Sure.
Me: I'm not admitting defeat or anything.
Jeff: Well, you did brag about this to a bunch of people.
Me: If push comes to shove.
Jeff: If push comes to shove, we could take a left there and be at my house.
Me: True.
Jeff: I didn't brag about this, you did.
Me: True.


Mile 46

Jeff: There's the freeway.
Me: Look, the mountain is right there.
Jeff: Wow.
Me: But how do we get to that road? And where's our Rest Stop?
Jeff: What does the map say?
Me: The map... is not being helpful.


Mile 50

Another Cyclist Passing Us Who Isn't On the Same Ride: Are you guys on the Portland Century?
Me: ...yeah....
ACPUWIOtSR: Didn't that start early this morning?
Me: Yeah.
ACPUWIOtSR: Wow. How's it going?
Me: 'sokay.


Mile 54. The Last Rest Stop.

Guy at the Last Rest Stop: Hey! There's a Rest Stop here!
Me: [guttural exclamation of relief]
Jeff: And they have water!
Me: And peanut butter! And jelly!
GatLRS: Are you the last riders?
Me: Um.
Jeff: Probably.
GatLRS: They told me that the last rider would come by to tell me that he's the last one and I can close up.
Jeff: They told you that?
GatLRS: Yeah.
Jeff: But how would the last rider know that he's the last?
GatLRS: I think he set out after everybody else did, or something.
Me: Sounds like that knight in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Jeff: Who's that guy? Are you a rider, too?
That Guy: Yeah. I'm waiting for the sweep van.
Me: Sweep Van?
GatLRS: The van that goes around picking up mechanical failures, cyclists in distress...
Jeff: ...corpses...
That Guy: It's just too hot. I'm not going any further. I'm throwing in the towel and waiting for the van.

[Time passes. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are consumed.]

Me: Jeff.
Jeff: Yeah?
Me: I'm just going to put this out there... Maybe we should think about... Just for a second, maybe we should think about riding back on the Sweep Van.
Jeff: Hm.
Me: We're more than halfway there.
Jeff: Yes.
Me: It's getting pretty hot.
Jeff: Yes. But it's mostly downhill from here, right?
Me: That's what the map says. But we both know this map is pretty tricky.
Jeff: Unreliable.
Me: In the sense that it lies outright, with palpably malicious intent.
Jeff: Yes.
Me: And there's no shame. No shame in being safe. We've got Tech Week coming up.
Jeff: Right.
Me: It's not the Van of Shame. It's the Van of Glory.


Riding Back on the Van of Glory

Me: Remember everyone, heads held high. It's the Van of Glory.
Others on the Van: Yes. Right. That's right. Glory.
Me: We just didn't want to show off. No sense in making everyone else look bad by finishing the whole thing. Best to let them think they're better than us for this one tiny bit. And besides, 54 miles--that's like 100 kilometers, right?
OotV: That's right!
Me: So we still completed the whole Century! And we get to ride the Van of Glory, no less.



Spoiler warning: Self-pity and introspective angst ahead. Those inclined to wonder after my emotional health are advised to skip to the cheerier posts below.


A quiet, little eensy sadness sits on me these days. It is entirely unrelated to the splendor of rehearsals, or the rigors of working my personally fulfilling (if economically and perhaps spiritually impoverishing) dayjob. It is a sadness of discontent, culled from an enduring loneliness and a general dissatisfaction with the direction of my life and times. Nothing more than the usual business, really. But because I am a thoughtful person, and one who blogs from time to time, I feel obliged to dwell on these things when they arise.

Recent personal catastrophes tend to indicate that I will never find a lover in the true sense. My imperfections have hardened, and my instinctive predisposition for isolation has only grown over the years, especially after recent experience. I grow more and more convinced of the gravity of my failings--in the sense that there is much I find wanting in myself, and this must be taken as a positive motive for growth and change, accomplishment and service--but to be convinced of those failings is to have no great love for them, and I do believe it to be true that, for someone to love you, you must first love yourself. But how do you love that which hurts you? Especially when that hurt is of your own substance?

Things become only the more difficult when you can see and feel the presence of affection all around you. I tend to construct masks of reciprocal affection only for their sake, all of whom truly are caring and loving and lovely individuals, quite worthy of affection and respect. But it would be more accurate to call this an affectionate distancing, tendering to others what is due to them, rather than for the sake of myself and my own longings. And this is never meant dishonestly or as a disservice to others, though in truth it may very well be such things. Rather, it represents, in all honesty, the utmost of what I can possibly offer.

It is all an extraordinarily complicated neurosis, which, I assure you, I really would rather not have to deal with, but it's here and I am thus compelled.

I have found isolation to be a cold comforter, by virtue of its simplicity, its clarity. Because we are all of us multitudes within our solitary selves, roiling and tumultuous with memories and passions and fears and dreams, griefs and tendernesses, and it is a minor miracle that I or any of us ever get out of bed in the morning. It's true that sometimes it's a miracle I'm unable to work.


I ride the Portland Century in a few hours. You may expect more characteristically buoyant tales of glory and mischief shortly.




Bacchic Hula Hips

For my first entrance in this play, I emerge in billowing robes and an astonishing mask, playing the god Bacchus. I even get grapes in my hair and beautiful horns.

Aside from the requisite stuff about messing with mortals and instigating the story, Bacchus is there, basically, to make a grand entrance, and to really introduce the audience to the convention of masked deities making appearances all over the place. So my director called for a bit of flair, some style and punch to highlight the event. To which I can only reply, "I live to serve".

The music and the lights on the pool will heighten things a bit, too, which is good because right now I am entering, in my mask and robes, quite frankly hula-hooping my hips in time to a swaying beat step. The pace is slow and long like taffy, and I am proportionally self-conscious and abashed, blushing and grinning in my mask both at once. Every time we rehearse this scene my castmates and I shake with laughter. My scene partners giggle and stumble their way through this bit.

We've got two weeks to previews and we're in fine form, doing full runs already--something I've almost never been able to say in all my experience. I can't wait to get in the water.




Annual Bridge Pedal Triumph.

Here are some pictures of the latest Providence Bridge Pedal here in Portland.

The Annual Bridge Pedal is one of the things I love the most about Portland. You really haven't lived until you've zoomed down the Interstate on a Bianchi touring bike with not a single automotive vehicle in sight.




PJ looks a lot like one of my troll puppets from my recent "Red Mare" tour. He's all knobs and bumps, with half-tinted aviator sunglasses and a dirty old SF Giants baseball cap. His beard is red and thick and crusty, he's got a bum leg and he speaks in a glowing, gravelly growl.

I took my residents to a baseball game at PGE Park last weekend. We made for an eclectic bunch; misfits, formerly homeless, disabled veterans, freaks and social castaways, tentatively navigating shoals of Portland's fashionably petty bourgieousie. They instinctively made a path for our garrulous, slightly pungent little gang. I felt like Lee Marvin in The Dirty Dozen.

I spent $60 on hot dogs and soda for the group, and then we crept down the bleachers to seats a little bit closer to the field than the ones donated to us (PGE Park is almost never more than 1/3 full). Once there, we took in a nice, long baseball game, the first I'd ever attended.

PJ is what made the game for me. He once coached and ump'd Little League baseball. He comes fully equipped with a colorful wit and an impressively resonant diaphragm, so when he wants to take apart the players or the umpires, the whole stadium looks sideways at us.


Whether he was mocking the umpire's strike calls or heckling the nervy, pint-sized pitcher, or diving for a stray fly ball, PJ absolutely dominated the game. If I'm Lee Marvin, PJ is Ernest Borgnine.





The Silk Sea--How I Became a Theatre Marine

It's hard to articulate just how much I love rehearsing this show. First week of rehearsals has me in paroxysms of delight, transports of sheer exhileration. The cast is magnificent, the director commands the heavens, the theatre is on fire with energy and talent, and my old friend the Silk Sea is back.

I first befriended the Silk Sea when I was eighteen or nineteen years old. I was in a doughty little production of "Pericles" down in the Bay Area, one of a handful of males imported by this same director for a production under the auspices of an all-girls' preparatory school. I stayed in a storybook cottage under the brow of a long ridge in the Marin peninsula, with a daybreak view of the fogbound City of San Francisco just outside my window. My days were spent in the libraries of the City, on my bike or on the buses, and my afternoons and evenings were spent rehearsing a beautiful, scrappy production.

One day, maybe 1/3 of the way through the process, Randall handed me a sheaf of directions. I was entrusted with an extremely important mission; he had custom-ordered a massive quantity of light blue silk to be fashioned into a vast, rolling sea, more than enough to fill the surface area of the floor of a large, ancient barn-cum-theatre, where we were performing. I don't know how to describe how large this Sea was in its beginnings; it was endless, it was Olympic-sized, it was the kind of big that makes everything and everyone else standing next to it look poky and unassuming by comparison. Balled up very tightly, it was about the size of my torso.

To find it, I boarded something like 7 different buses to get from my tucked-away cottage to downtown San Francisco. I walked up the rickety, narrow staircases of a dozen old Victorian office/warehouse edifices in the Tenderloin/Nob Hill stretch, following a trail of breadcrumbs and the bemused assistance of potbellied shopkeepers, world-weary immigrant store clerks, liveried doormen, angry young bike messengers and the ghosts of Barbary Coast pirates before I found the place I was sent to find.

Inside the crumbling belly of a dark and sooty old Beaux-Arts monster, I stumbled into a cave of musty and shrouded wonders. Like spiders perfumed with mothballs, a shadowy little herd of lesbian seamstresses with exotic and implacable accents ushered me past the bolts of rich, deep velvets and the ghostly mannequins painted with translucent saffrons and the elegantly billowing herringbone patterns masking the distant skylights, into an inner sanctum where an ancient and wizened little old spinster was stitching snaps into the opened seams of the Sea. Randall had specified that the Sea was to have three openings from which people could reach out and pop up from beneath its surface, and the little old spinster muttered the whole time about how strange that little man was (I think she was talking about Randall).

Her task finished, she laboriously gathered up the vast Sea into a compact shape (my torso), which she passed to the lesbian spider seamstress, who passed it to me. Papers and signatures were exchanged, seals were affixed, messages were inscribed, and soon enough I was back outside in the brilliant Bay Area sunlight. I remember a stiff headwind, and barely being able to see above the top of the Silk Sea, gushing out of the bursting shrinkwrap. Then there was some heartstopping swordplay against whole regiments of French musketeers, followed by a breakneck sprint across the rooftops chased by SWAT-team snipers, and then I lashed myself to the mast of my galley while I sailed past the Sirens and other sea-monsters, and then the guy let me get on the ferry even though my transfer was expired, and I made it to rehearsal with minutes to spare. (I'm exaggerating: I had to buy a new transfer.)

That evening the Silk Sea unfolded for the first time, and I experienced the first of what was to become many, many collective gasps of beholding. Since that time the Sea has waxed and waned, separated into several Seas and then reunited; its openings have torn and been re-stitched and then torn again; casts have come and gone, sometimes dozens strong, sometimes only five or six of us. I've been privileged to perform with this Sea in most of its incarnations. I've watched the stains and the dust and the tears in the Sea come and go. I am so happy to be swimming in it again.

And that's how I became a Theatre Marine.




My dreams have been excitable and volatile, lately. Africa and planes and anxious meanderings, and distant friends, all figure prominently in the wrack and flotsam of my very late nights.

I'm preparing for a wonderfully intensive rehearsal process just about to begin. "Metamorphoses" with ART (for which I was called in to audition on extremely short notice) opens on the 8th of September, begins rehearsing on the 31st of this month, and I've already been writing long summaries and commentaries on Ovid as part of a dramaturgy package I also agreed to work on.

As I mentioned before, I haven't been this excited by a project in a long time. Not to say that I'm not proud of the work I've been doing recently; far from it. It's rather that it's been awhile since a project has looked to well-occupy so many of my passions; antiquities and verse, an intelligent theatre, and an imaginative theatre, and a physical theatre all at once.

Ovid in particular has long held sway in my heart of hearts, vying with Virgil and Catullus for my highest affections. I'm deeply steeped in his verse, fully immersed in his sense of wonder and numinousness.

When I dream I dream of running and cloudscapes and groaning trees. I dream of loneliness and panic and old, seamed faces. Occasionally there are horrors and nightmares that I half-consciously race through, willing myself even in my sleep to push past as much of the terror as I possibly can.

Today was a slow day at work. Heat and sunlight pushes my residents to the Library or to shaded parks by the water, anywhere but their non-air-conditioned rooms. I played poker with my residents, five card draw with a number of characters taken straight from Joyce's Ulysses, writ rather large.

I took my Mom out to dinner tonight, burgers and fries and a chain restaurant that she really likes. We poked fun at each other and complimented how well we both seem to age, and for all the world I felt like a tired sea bird, glad to have made landfall once more.


tramps like us, baby we were born to run

You've all indicated, at various points in our mutual history, your exceeding willingness to tear it up at the karaoke mike with me again. I propose to do just that.

8:30 pm, Tuesday the 18th of July (That's TONIGHT), at the Galaxy on 10th and E Burnside. Papa's gonna get a brand new bag.

Shine on you crazy diamonds,



Numbers game

Lester and Tyler are 7 and 16, respectively. We're hanging out at one of the housing complexes my company owns (I'm pitching in on the Free Summer Lunch program).

Lester: How old are you?

Tyler: Guess.

Lester: Are you 8?

Tyler: No.

Lester: Are you 17?

Tyler: No.

Lester: Oh. [Lester is stumped.] I give up.

Me: You know, Lester, there are actually some numbers between 8 and 17.

Lester: [beat] Yeah, right, whatever. How old are you?


What kind of day has it been.

Yesterday afternoon, after taking out my laundry to hang it on the clothesline, I locked my keys in the basement. Since my front door was unlocked, I didn't think about it until this morning when I was turning the house upside down looking for those keys. I would probably still be looking for them if I hadn't chanced to glance in the basement window, where I caught their dim, leering, jagged-tooth nastily grinning silhouette on the neglected, vengeful, bitchy clothes dryer.

In the movies you see people use pins or toothpicks or sticks of chewing gum or credit cards to open locked doors. They make locked doors look positively malleable, accomodating like tissue in a swaying breeze. You see them do a jiggle thing with their willowy wrists and hey, presto, there we go. And I tried all of those things, as nonchalantly as I could, desperately mopping my forehead while the contractors building a driveway next door ambled their wheelbarrows back and forth behind me. I furrowed my brow and angled my shoulders like they do in the movies. I tried finesse, I tried force, I tried cunning and guile. And I can tell you it's true about the credit card.

$65.00 to a bemused locksmith later, I'm hustling down the street in my beat-up Saturn desperately trying to make up for lost time. J. had his wallet stolen and he's three months behind on rent, and I'm going to pay for a new ID while he gets back up to date on his union's membership rolls. I scoop him up and we go and hunker down at the DMV. We swap touring stories (he's a union stagehand for rock concerts). We read over heavily creased, outdated paperwork. We do our best not to look like the harried supplicants at the dread altar of the forbidding DMV deities that we are.

Hours later I'm back at the office, J.'s tasks done and done well, now scrambling to find the fix for the next exploded basket case on my desk. There are meetings and notes and scheduling shuffles; I am an argonaut navigating the impassable confines of dwindling water coolers and straightened budget arrangements. There are memos to write, commitments to make, policies to draft.

It is a constant, quiet surprise to me that people seem to think I know what I'm doing. I am constantly, quietly surprised at my own capacity to convince myself (albeit howsoever temporarily) that I know what I'm doing. The truth lies rather quite far from any such conviction.

I get home anxious and dreading tomorrow, far from certain as to how to keep things going. My book group meets at my house and I lay out the beer and the chips and the tea. I light the candles and we laugh and speak well, we convince each other of splendid things, we gently disagree and we stridently validate and we cast and re-cast our lives' choices according to our shared lights. The book is only an excuse, really, to meet and share of such things.

I am an argonaut snatching off pieces and shards of grand conversations, leaving my own sometimes powerful words, noting and watching, speaking or not. I am here and I am not. Always I am arriving and departing all at once. This is who I am.

The trees are still warm long after the sun has set. My house breathes more deeply having had guests; it's not for nothing that the ritualized pleasure of hospitality is so powerful to so many cultures. I blow out the candles and set the teabags in the compost and check for my keys before I see my friends out.

Outside, my neighbors have left me flowers, and a warm note of thanks, for helping their friend last week. I sit down to write what kind of day it has been, and then I go to sleep.




A fool i'the forest

I listened to myself for the first time yesterday. An audio theatre company I work with, Speak the Speech, recorded a production of As You Like It that I did last year with Shakespeare in the Park (yes, that's me in the beard. Quiet, you).

It was a weird experience; since this was recorded about 9 months ago, I could sometimes remember and identify the motives behind my inflections, my line readings; sometimes they entirely surprised me. I was pleasantly surprised that my recorded voice is not quite so awful as the voice on my message machine would lead me to believe. I'm still disappointed with some of the choices I made with the famous "All the world's a stage" speech; it's definitely something I need to revisit in the future. But, all in all, not too bad, considering. My character, Jaques, shows up about halfway through Act II.

I've also done work on Speak the Speech's forthcoming "Pericles" (which I'll be helping to edit) and "Part I Henry IV."

More soon.



Gonna be Some Changes Made.

I'm recasting the Polyform Look. "Dots Dark" is fabulous and all, but it's time for something new. You should comment if you wish to register strident opposition to this new regime.

I got home late last night on my bike with a good seven or eight pints in me, enough to bring out some color. I was clumsily rifling through my keys when I noticed my next door neighbors gathered around someone on the ground.

I announced myself as a trained EMT and offered to help. A young man had vomited over the porch balcony and fallen over, knocking his head and bleeding a bit. I cleaned up the cut, which looked worse than it actually was, and I made sure he wasn't dizzy or unduly shocked. After going through the routine of pupils and pulse and establishing that he hadn't lost consciousness, wasn't seeing spots and wasn't epileptic or anything of that order, I pronounced him basically fine; the bleeding had already stopped and I told him that he should see an Urgent Care center in the morning, just to be sure.

I've done this sort of thing dozens and dozens of times, enough for it to feel routine; keeping people safe at a traffic accident scene until the ambulance arrives, small children bleeding and crying on the playground, nothing on a truly challenging order, only enough for people to be scared. I'm good at reassuring people who are scared. I'm told that people trust me implicitly, almost instinctively.

One of my residents is in Stage IV lung cancer and advanced chemotherapy. He's a Vietnam veteran, a small, lanky man with big, piercing eyes and a sardonic, self-pitying manner. He desperately holds on to the fixtures of his life as a means of coping with it.

My reassurance shtick doesn't work quite so well with him. The things I do, the promises I make cannot go as far as they would with anyone else. He simply doesn't have time to feel reassured. He needs constant progress, constant activity, constant evidence that his is not the hopeless battle that everyone knows it is. He's fighting for his life and he's losing every day, and that fight alone consumes everything about him.

He trusts me and respects me, and is deeply appreciative of the things I do for him. It is enough for him that I do what I can do. What suprises me is how pained I am that I fail to reassure him. It reminds me of my failures to reassure my Mom and my late Grandpa, failures identical in that they sought of me (or I sought of myself) the ability to overcome such minor, insubstantial obstacles as, say, metastasized cancer or imminent foreclosure.

I remain deeply resentful of my inability to beat the living shit out of metastasized cancer. I secretly burn and shake at my impotence with issues any more challenging than a shallow cut from a drunken fall. It is a point of deep regret.




Hello and welcome, DB--

I attended the SOAR trainings at Cascadia Behavioral HC here in Portland, OR. The SOAR (SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access and Recovery) training is designed for social workers and other advocates, and it's running around the country right now, what with the revitalized Interagency Council on Homelessness and the renewed interest in various states to substantially reduce their chronically homeless populations.

A number of recent and compellng articles (The New Yorker, "Million Dollar Murray," February 2006) in the national media have made the case that actually housing someone in an apartment and setting some kind of social worker supervision over them is cheaper than the ER visits and the treatments for the addictions and other health issues that attend upon chronic homelessness. That is, hooking someone up with the SSI/SSDI benefits they're entitled to, addiction counselors and treatments, getting them an apartment and foodstamps, all still add up to less than the millions of dollars needed for untold years of hospital visits, police involvement and repeated incarcerations. Additionally, as I'm sure you know, there've been a number of pretty substantial changes to the SSI/SSDI application appeals process, and the impact of electronic application technology has been considerable in the last several years--all of these factors lead to the current popularity and need for this SOAR training I attended.

The training was put together by a very successful and inspiring social worker in Baltimore, who, prior to riding circuit around the country with this training seminar, used to achieve really incredible results with the applications she was assigned--something in the neighborhood of 80% of her SSI/SSDI applications were approved on the first attempt. The comparable statistic here in SSA Region X is approximately 35% (this excludes 'ordinary' retirement-age applications).

It's a very valuable and insightful training, highly applicable to my job. It's also an excruciating and absolutely depressing training. more because of the subject matter than anything the individual trainers could have done (although, in all honesty, they really could have been a bit better organized and they could have presented these matters in a more constructive format. If I have to hear the phrase "clinical Colombo" one more time, I swear I'm going to break something important and expensive. And then I'm just going to let it sit there for fifty years while I run out of money to fix it properly).

I'm intensely frustrated at this system. It criminalizes and alienates those who most need the help it offers. Apparently there are limestone caves in the east where they keep mountains and mountains of SSA files and a fleet of overworked forklifts, and one reason why it takes so long to get things done is because every time someone requests a file, you literally mount an archeological expedition to find it. It makes Kafka look like a sitcom.

Anyway. That's the training I went to in the last couple of days.

Thanks for your interest, DB--


paulmonster-resident services coordinator


ps--don't worry, David. I've been looking forward to tonight's curtain speech all week.



I've just spent two days and three thermoses of coffee struggling to survive an extended seminar on how to help someone apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). We go home with binders of materials, binders the size of Montana. I should be capable of extended, coherent speech within a week or so.

paulmonster-form #1698


I had the table laid out with three batches of cookies and a massive pot of coffee brewing on the counter behind me. Reruns of 'Mad About You' were on TV, and outside it was a gorgeous summer day, so we thought we really needed to lay out a good spread to get my residents into the lobby to meet me. L., however, was already in the lobby.

L. is a small, furtive woman, with dark browns and deep circles of wrinkles around her eyes and her mouth. There is obvious evidence of behavioral disorders and disabilities. You can read the story of her life in the shuffling walk, the thin, cold shoulders and the narrow, cracked line of her teeth. She lives in a tiny studio apartment in a hundred-year-old SRO building in downtown Portland.

My supervisor A. warned me that L. is hard to turn around; she doesn't trust people, or change. She's had a rough time of things and she's seen a lot of people turn their backs on her. She can be spiteful and vindictive, pacing the lobby like a malevolent, radioactive squirrel.

All of this notwithstanding, L. is one of A.'s favorite residents. She can be very sweet and open, in her own way. She has two cats that she cares very deeply for. As with my Mom, the smallest gestures cause enormous delight for her. A. makes a point of giving me as many details about L. as possible, anticipating that I will need to be on the ball with what she needs.

People start moving into the lobby and immediately everyone globs onto A., since she's the face everyone knows and loves. Also, A. is tall and curvy, whereas I'm male. But you must never underestimate the power of cookies and coffee; the cookies and the coffee are like twin gravitational wells, against which no body can exert any real resistance. Soon enough small knots and strays peel away from the gaggle around A., and then, much to everyone's surprise, I, too, now have a gaggle of Brechtian/Dickensian characters, pleading or wheedling or curious or hungry or all at once.
  • M., a stooped, greying, fastidiously combed yeti of a man with wistful eyes and yellow-stained fingers. Wants to open a shoe-shine stall by the waterfront. Need to call City Hall.
  • E., a septuagenarian Navy veteran with children ranging in age from 59 to 16. He's still paying child support. Very genteel and soft-spoken, understated sense of humor. Can I score him some baseball tickets?
  • P., alcoholic, tattooed, nerve damage in his legs, just qualified for a coveted Section 8 voucher. Misses his motorcycle. Overwhelmed by complicated websites. Needs help with application forms. P. belly-laughs like my Grandpa. A. notices that I can make P laugh, and she smiles and says I'm doing good.
Finally, L. steps up. She's been hovering by the coffee pot, obviously waiting for A to stop talking to D in the wheelchair. L is clearly upset by the delay, she won't talk to me without A there but she can't keep waiting, it's very hard for her to be patient and she doesn't like it. By the time we get her to sit down at the table with A and I, L is downcast and agitated, and A is nervous. Both A and I take turns calming L down, opening her back up again.

What followed was a fifteen minute nonstop monologue on how L grew up with horses. Tall horses, proud horses, gentle horses. She knows how to turn them, how to rein them in, how to connect with them. She knows how to take care of them, how to feed them, how to watch out for them. She's scared of the big, fiery ones. She hasn't seen a horse in thirty years. She misses them. She would really, really like to ride a nice, gentle horse again. Could I get a horse for her to ride?

Later A. tells me that when she was talking me up to L., A. mentioned that I knew how to ride horses bareback (when you don't have a college degree to put on a resume, you put down everything you've got), and I guess that's what got through to L. more than anything else. When L. said she didn't know what to say to me, A told her to ask me for something that I might be able to do for her, because that's what I'm here for.

I'm looking for horses right now.



For Those of Us Keeping Score (an homage to the Harper Index)

Number of bottles of beer that can fit in my backpack, in addition to my notebook, stamp portfolio, letter-writing kit, Book of Days, and minimum 3 books being read: 12.

Pages of "Ulysses" read since starting again on Bloomsday: 27.

Loads of laundry finished since ending Tour: 10.

Number of times I've had to move my car while at work because of stupid parking meters: 11.

Number of weeks at my new job: 2.

Things I've crossed off my Critical To-Do List in Those 2 Weeks: 2.

Things I've added to my Critical T0-Do List in Same Period: 6.

Keys on my keychain: 10.

Phone numbers in my cell phone: 116.

Letters Sent this week: 3.

Record number of hot dogs eaten in one day: 5.

Translations of Ovid in my Library: 4.

Water bottles lost: 2.




Nightmares Part II; An Open Letter to An Ex-.

I still dream about you, altogether too often. In my waking hours I'm content with forgetting you, content to allow the slow wake of days wash away the memory of what I still know to be a disastrous connection. You were right to say that I am slow to trust; once that's been lost, I have nothing left to give.

But when I dream of you,

(it's very painful to admit this)

I dream of reconciliations. Gentle explanations. Revisions. Things we both should have said to each other. Undoings and remakings. And, as with all dreams, there is a strange pervading logic that inhibits my senses, tells me that this is right and worthwhile, and my affection for you blooms all over again. I forget my humiliation. I forget my own stupidities. It doesn't help that this dream invariably involves spectacularly delicious reconciliation-sex.

Waking from these dreams either involves a slow, tortuous realignment of my senses and my memory with the true state of things, or else I awake with a heavy heart, in no wise rested, squinting in the dull light of day.

I am still content to be as I am, unseeking and unsought-for. I have no further interest in heartache. I wish I could stop dreaming of you.

paulmonster-bdh/sans souci


Nightmares Part I

One of the things I both dread and heartily dislike, is when theatres call you up on the day and ask if you can audition for them.

For one thing, everyone in PDX knows that every actor who lives here has a day job, or is looking for one. Furthermore, I personally have no idea how rational, grown-up people can think that other supposedly rational, grown-up people have absolutely nothing scheduled on a day-to-day basis. The brazen assumption that I might have a completely and utterly open day on my hands absolutely eludes me.

Secretly, I dread those few days, in my Book of Days, that occasionally are wide open and unoccupied. They are fewer and fewer, but they do come silently and swiftly by, upon which instances I am beset with creeping fears about my usefulness in a serious world, or the key appointment that I somehow completely forgot to annotate.

Today I got a call from a venerable theatre in town, putting up a production that I am very much hopeful to be cast in (I don't want to jinx my chances by naming things just yet, that's the kind of luck I've been having today). And of course I dutifully juggled and shuffled some important and weighty things around, and I made the time to audition, which is what actors do.

On my list of things to do when I run the zoo, is to absolutely do away with such ad hoc audition arrangements, that only demonstrate how dissheveled and agitated people can be, especially when the stakes are high and at only a moment's notice. My audition was contemptibly overcharged and undercooked, suffering from my nervous agitation that only blew the lid off of all my bad habits all at once. The big mucky-mucks at the venerable theatre were inflicted with an overanimated, brash and slapdash rendition of tired old standby monologues that I've been overworking for far too long, now, plus a brazen attempt at a Parchman Prison Song that was perhaps the highlight of the effort, being novel and strange to their otherwise jaded ears. My tired standard audition pieces are John Donne's XIVth Holy Sonnet (it is something of a faux pas to perform such a thing for an audition), and an excerpt from the prologue to Wallenstein by Friedrich von Schiller, and then the Parchman Song. Taken all together, it was a flaming debacle, which, in any event, is still better than a limp anticlimax.

I should be hearing shortly whether or not I've made the cast. I haven't felt this nervous since last year's Othello. I'm hoping that that's a good sign.




I don't know, I guess I'm just link-happy this month.

  • My good friend and former castmate Anders Lijleholm hosts OMSI's Sound Science podcast. Anders is good people. The kind of guy who puts the 'fu' in kung-fu. The crazy thing is, his Mom was my high school guidance counselor. Oftentimes I feel like Portland is so tiny, you could've smuggled it into West Berlin on a microdot. (...I'm rather jealous of Anders' job...)
  • Sometimes you just have to Ask a Ninja.
  • Running on empty? Gasbuddy will fix you up right nice. (Christ on a stick, what Arab nation do we have to invade to get affordable gas again? My American dream is just billowing out the tailpipe here. Now, if only there were a healthy, affordable yet still individualistic transport alternative to rely on these days.)
  • I visit this site daily. I keep thinking maybe they'll show my home one of these days.
  • This place really makes me want to be a writer.
  • I got this from Rocketboom again. Really wonderful-excellent.
  • Someone please say they'll come see this play with me. Third Rail is a kickass theatre here in PDX, and I'm really excited to see their latest effort.
  • My notebook aspires to look like this. (Not quite there yet.)
  • It's deeply reassuring to me that you can still listen to the BBC these days.



Extraordinary Things Part II

Currently Reading:
  • Cobra II by Michael Gordon and Genl. Bernard Trainor. Riveting in an extraordinarily disheartening way.
  • Metamorphoses by Mary Zimmerman, based on Ovid's extraordinary work, of the same name. "Metamorphoses" will open ART's upcoming season. Very excited.
  • Ovid's Metamorphoses translated by Arthur Golding, 1567. It's a bit of a slog, Golding really isn't all that he's cracked up to be, especially after having read and loved more modern translations already. But it's the undisputed source for Shakespeare, Milton, Blake, etc., so it's worthwhile.
  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. Absolutely brilliant, cannot put it down. Dreaming of Smyrna now.
  • Postwar by Tony Judt. Earlier I raved about The Cold War by John Lewis Gaddis. Thought it was insightful and concise, if perhaps too cursory. Shortly thereafter I read a review of the book by Tony Judt, which absolutely demolished Gaddis' lackadaisical approach. So I picked up Judt's somewhat competing book. And he's not holding back, he's showing you how it's done, he's following up on sources and taking a broad view of every decade, and it's remarkably well done. Much more authoritative, much more thought out.
  • I'm working on a recording of 1 Henry IV, for which I rely on nothing so much as the excellent annotations of the Arden editions.
  • My World-Traveling Housemate recommended Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword, and I'm only slowly growing an attachment to it. Perhaps there's altogether too much derring-do on my reading list already.
  • I love everything Hellboy.
Yes, it's a lopsided list, I know. I'm working on that.



In Praise of Extraordinary Things

Your diligent servants here at Polyform International HQ have uncovered the following extraordinary things:
  • The American Chesterton Society, where you will find practically everything you ever wanted to know about one of my favorite authors. His birthday was just the other day, I think.
  • Video Journalist Ruud Elmendorp has arguably the best name I've ever heard, in addition to very well made vlogs from Africa
  • I get most of my news from the International Herald Tribune, which I first got addicted to in my last couple of trips to Europe. It's effectively a distillation of the NY Times, with an emphasis on international affairs and commerce, so you don't have to wade through all that fashion crap.
  • I really love these t-shirts.
  • This site is really handy.
  • Jolie Holland is coming to the Aladdin Theater on the 15th of June. I'm so there.
Comment below if you want a coveted Summer Letter from the desk of the Paul-Monster. Or send snail-mail credentials to fulgiatore@yahoo.com.

That's all. Back to work, the lot of you.



Excerpt from my Letter to Rachel, 25 May 2006

...Two weeks ago, I attempted a James Brown song for the first time. I was at the Galaxy Lounge's Karaoke Bar with a number of friends, the day after my birthday.

Perhaps you know this already; it's a heavy thing, to dare an attempt at James Brown. You must master the most demanding coordination of skill, hubris, alcohol and luck--far more ambitious than anything I know of in the typical karaoke songbook. You must be wilful and insouciant, armed with the temperament of a saber-toothed platypus--grimly determined to be whimsically ridiculous, and yet perfectly capable of "taking it to the bridge" as the need arises. I was very genuinely concerned when the KJ called me up.

Fortunately for me, between the friendly audience, five beers, and the auspicious ocassion of my birthday, my rendition of "Get Up (Sex Machine)" went so well that, afterwards, both the KJ and the management personally approached me, inviting me to perform it every Friday night, at which point they began talking about competitions and bands needing lead singers and the like. To be honest, I wasn't really paying them any attention, by that point.

In spite of the risks--abject humiliation, race riots, death by exhaustion--I have to say I highly recommend the experience. The available vocabulary describing transcendental profundities woefully fails to describe the sheer awesomeness of performing something by James Brown. In his book, "Middlesex," Eugenides talks about how he loves that Germanic method of constructing vast, forbiddingly unwieldy words to describe the excruciatingly specific, far more preferable to the insipid generalizations encompassed by solitary anodynes like "happy" or "sad." there should be a word, for example, that encompasses the mortifying humiliation of seeing an ex- with someone else and not being able to decide whether you're okay with that, even if you'd firmly resolved not to care about it. Or a word that signifies the kind of relief you experience when the incredibly elaborate lie you told your dying grandmother actually turns out to be substantially true, but only after her death. In this case, our language languishes without a word describing the euphoric exhaustion after singing a James Brown piece for the first time. Something really must be done about this.

In spite of that night's sucess, I'm hesitant to attempt a repitition. I have been to the mountaintop already; try that again and I risk the indignant wrath of the gods. Instead, these past couple of weeks I've been reveling in my unemployed freedom, vigorously prosecuting months and months' worth of laundry, quietly applying for jobs and carefully weighing competing plans for the fall.

I now have the luxury of noticing hte most remarkable things, nestled amongst the reassuringly quotidian blandishments all around me. For some reason, it's deeply satisfying that our postmen now wear raincoats over their shorts and their pith helmets, and that the bike commuters have begun to preen and strut in their mud-splatter. The vivid greens, in their infinite shadings, seem almost to illuminate our rainswept streets. And I know of nothing so remarkable as small children in hoodies and galoshes, galloping across uneven sidewalks.

My poverty notwithstanding, a substantial portion of me earnestly desires to stay here, in this becalmed place, tracing the progress of rainclouds and the shadows blooming like inkblots around the streetlights. Of course, this isn't enough by far to keep me here--just enough to make me want to linger.

So. As ever, I hope this finds things well and thriving with you. I hear good things from Sarah, from time to time. My Summer Housemate is a droll, gay dell'Arte man whom I rarely see. Portland is much diminished without your resplendent influence. Take care of yourself, and look to hear more soon--

love and butter,


Excerpt from my Letter to K, 25 May 2006

...A very good friend of mine just paid me the high compliment of asking me to contribute to a literary erotica website she's setting up. Kathy believes that there's a massive, untapped potential market for erotica that's intelligent, highly developed, well-written, daring. Something beyond simply crass prurience. It's something I've never tried before; thus, it's necessarily something I want to do.

As I was speaking with Kathy about working on this project, I was reminded of our conversations months ago about moving to New York. To me, the gestures are similar--confiding our ambitions with one another speaks to the breadth and depth of a true friendship. Collaboration is the coin of mutual regard. Even when these things are merely chimeras of hope, they still mean much to me.

I've never worked on anything overtly erotic before. Of course, we've all had our daydreams, and the veiled intentions we ourselves hardly suspect; the patterns we imagine in the precisely careless movements of strangers. Who is not well-acquainted with the sheer sophistication of our hapless fantasies? The invitation to spell all this out is just as transgressively satisfying for me as though I were asked about the unsavory history of my family. Perhaps more so. (Of course, more so.)

Now when I think of New York, I'm no longer struck by the inconceivability of such ambitions. It's true that I'm unemployed at the moment; it's true that there are any number of rational arguments to be made against this prospect of who I am and who I intend to be--prospects, incidentally, that in no way present themselves so clearly as to actually be useful. But my images of myself are compelling enough to clearly militate against the creeping despondencies that arise when you know you've stayed too long in the same place.

I'm primed and hungry and impatient to reconfigure the very terms in which I deal with the world; I see this hunger as both a cause and a product of the sea-changes all around me.

In this manner, adrift on the surging tides of expectation, from time to time I wonder after your own doings; I wonder how similar confrontations unspool in your own expert hands. (Often I wish I had the benefit of your knowing poise.)

I hope this finds you well and thriving, as ever. Drop me a line when you can.

pink cadillac loving,



I am a fitful keeper of secrets.

On the one hand, notions of loyalty and obligation are deeply rooted in who I am--their roots intertwine indistinguishably with my own--the roots of my world-tree are gnawed upon not by earth-shaking dragons, but by anachronistic principles.

Perhaps precisely because of this, when it comes to Knowing a Thing, I must be as liberal as an indulgent grandfather. This is not necessarily about secrets of the heart, or of conscience--I do not know enough of those to speak with any authority. (Or perhaps, in fact, I do, and I release those so much more cunningly that I've succeeded in deceiving myself.) This is usually about knowing what is About to Happen, or knowing Why This Is the Way It Is. Secrets of Explanation. Secrets of two steps ahead, or of two steps back. Secrets I do not know whether I am entitled even to know to begin with.

I gloss and polish such secrets, accenting and refining their meanings and valences, changing the cadence, rearranging the meter. And, more often than you would think, the alloyed substance that results from my subtle alchemizing is a True Substance, more than plausible, so seamlessly slotting into the panoply of the real all around us that I almost forget the fact of my interventions.

I have seen entire tables of uncles and aunts and even grandparents turn to me to reveal secrets of life and death--the mechanics of chemotherapy, the intricacies of metastasizing cancer, the swelling treachery of pulmonary disease. I've initiated generations of close friends in the mysteries I observed on the Hopi Reservation, or in the ambulances with paramedics, or in the sacristies of cathedrals. The secrets I've revealed may not have been uncovered with strict legitimacy--I have never been, in any way, strictly legitimate--but they've always been true. By the faithful and conscientious manner in which I reveal my secrets, I've always brought clarity and insight where none existed before.

The long experience of example and exposure to so many similar masters of secrets has almost eclipsed my self-awareness of this secret craft, this secret appetite. On the one hand, to inform those I love is to serve them, thus abiding by those same dragons of Loyalty and Obligation nestling in my roots. But by giving Secrets their own lives, I am releasing them from a kind of imprisonment, abetting an escape from those same dragons who would rather devour secrets than see them illuminating others.

I take great pleasure in this.



I'm sitting in the sun with a beer and a four-month old puppy, reading scripts and writing letters from Canada.

Devoted Polyform readers abroad will be delighted to know that the Paulmonster 25th+1 Birthday gathering, at the Galaxy Karaoke Lounge back in Portland, was a suprisingly distinguished success. Throughout the night eminent and magnanimous friends and colleagues dropped by, and I took home a surprising mountain of loot. Highlights include:
  • Jeremy gave me a print of the Othello portrait linked below.
  • Peter dropped by on his way to the airport, just to say happy birthday.
  • Sam gave me a 'Wonderful Dog,' which is a hollow gilt plastic statuette filled with orange gummy candy, and brimming with generous and warm-hearted symbolism.
  • Patrick gave me over $70.00 worth of liquor (he picked up the tab) (and he brought most of the guests that evening) (because Patrick is a Bad-ass Rockstar who sings with the Portland Opera)
  • Sarah brought me all her friends in town.
  • David tried out his first attempt at Led Zeppelin's 'Black Dog'
  • Jordan gave me her phone number.
After months and months of zealous karaoke action, I'd never had the courage to attempt James Brown until that night. My first attempt, "Get Up (Sex Machine)," was so memorable that the KJ and the management of the bar both personally invited me to perform it every Friday night, and they also said stuff about bands needing lead singers and upcoming karaoke competitions, but I was rather distracted by the cumulative effects of exertion, alcohol and Jordan by that point.

The puppy wants some attention now, and my cousin is firing up the barbecue, and so I better go and make sure he doesn't destroy the province again. More soon,



Othello Lives

The good folks at Portland Actor's Ensemble put up a still from last year's Othello in their banner. I miss my beard.




kites and polar-grizzlies

I really love Newport.

I picked up a panda, an elephant and a Clydesdale horse at Sandcastle Toys.

I got myself a winged box kite at The Kite Company.

I almost bought myself a French Military Box Kite, but then I would have had to've surrendered to somebody.

After flying my kite on Nye Beach, I walked up to the famous Sylvia Beach Hotel, which was beautiful and awesome. I really must stay there someday. I was able to look into the Melville and the Edgar Allen Poe rooms--the latter even has a pendulum over the bed!

Between these and the aforementioned Rogue Brewery and the Oregon Coast Aquarium, I've half a mind to pitch a tent and stick around out here for some time to come.


Thus far, 25 rocks. More soon.

paulmonster-Ursus maritimus horribilis


Excerpt from my Letter to A., 10 May 2006

...I'm teaching a week-long residency out here on the Coast, and I'm having a very fine time of it. All my kids are enthusiastic and deeply inspiring, the teachers are quick and forthright, the weather absolutely splendid. I spend my days making puppets with kids, helping them tell stories with them. After school I get to explore the beaches and trails honeycombing the area, with places like the Oregon Coast Aquarium and the Rogue Brewery to sustain me. I'm very happy here.

If anything, it's the eve of my birthday that tempers things for me, now. Turning 25 feels sobering, mostly because I'm particularly conscious of how little I have to show for my efforts. There's a growing Credibility Gap (to use a term from the Johnson Administration) between my abilities and ambitions on the one hand, and the credentials that speak on my behalf on the other. Given how extended my responsibilities are--in caring for my mother, in pursuing my own work, in making rent every month--obtaining the necessary credentials (that is, a college education, a living wage, health care) is now an insistent priority for me, if only because it's the lack of such things that are dissuading me from extending myself even further towards more important work. My biggest challenge, as I see it, is this business of becoming a grown-up, without inflicting myself with adulthood shackles.

To this end, here I am writing yet another similar letter from another far-flung place, chronicling the ebb and rush of so many more minor ambitions, many more little triumphs and petty debacles. Projects come and go. The teeming texts of scripts and ideas that populate these gestating years still motivate their suceeding hopes and intentions, such that I am thus in thrall to a self-perpetuating momentum of impoverished creativity--which is why I rely so heavily on these lonely letters to punctuate the inexorable tide of things.

I'm driven to restlessness in the loneliness of all of this. It is deeply disquieting, in the dark of the night, to see in myself how painful my isolation can be, and still to know how impossible it is for things to be otherwise. Every minotaur has a labyrinth like this, of some kind.

From time to time valiant and indomitable friends of mine will suggest that I join forces and move east with them, trying our combined strengths and fortunes in a broader world of mightier possibilities--and it is such a tempting prospect. I only wait for the opportunity to move from a position of strength--that is, I must be capable of sustaining a degree of sophisticated imagination that will in turn enable me to properly acquit myself in my undertakings.

Is it so strange that, thus far, I feel that I haven't thus properly acquitted myself? I've only ever felt that portions, or facets of myself have ever truly been engaged at any given time. I feel like a kind of iceberg, passing through so many worlds largely submerged and untapped, hidden from view.

Of course, the greatest personal temptation to move east is the prospect of your close personal proximity. Your friendship is especially sorely missed. I am very much in need of friends, now. It is a disappointment to have cumulatively celebrated so many birthdays alone, even when I do so by choice.

I hope you will forgive and indulge me in yet another long and self-involved letter; looking back, I see too much melancholy in the tenor of my words, whereas I truly am happier right now than these pretentiously brooding words let on. It is literally quite impossible to remain discouraged for long, even in face of the larger world's calamities, when one spends so much time wrapped up with precociously invincible children.

Dear lovely A. I miss you a great deal. Please take care of yourself, and let me know how things go in these months of yours. When you come back West again, there's a number of glorious jellyfish I'd like you to meet....

much love,



Fund Free Mammograms!

I have no idea how these things work, where you click on a link once a day and then magically something worthy like homeless shelters or a mammogram are funded. But they're saying that this month, your clicks are worth double, so go, click away. Go now.



London Calling

The English Invasion is off, looks to be happening in the fall at the earliest. Which is unfortunate, but also okay, seeing as how my financial health is not exactly conducive towards a herculean expenditure of that magnitude so soon.

This opens the door for a couple of other lower-key projects this summer; Work Songs, college investigations, Crater Lake and The Beach, making and saving money. It's all good.




Glorious Bacon and a Lightsaber.

Days, weeks, months... Everything goes barrelling along, faster than I know how to manage.

Last weekend I performed one of the work songs I've been working on (more like marinating) for well over a year now. It was a deep plunge into a bursting place, kind of like suddenly sprinting for three miles when all you've been doing is ambling along. Lots of good feedback, but yet I'm still lacking a few key insights into the nature of the thing. It's a matter of courage right now, I think.

Passed through Moscow, Idaho, on the way to British Columbia last week. The highway runs through this beautiful rolling region of hillocks and ridglets, scooped and scalloped like sculpted soap bars, festively adorned with the ocassional decorative cow. A few millenia ago, some busy old glaciers swept past the region and left this rolling loveliness everywhere.

I stayed with my good friend Sally in Moscow, and ate tons and tons of delicious food; there was this dish called the Barbecue Chicken Coalition, and that, my friends, is what it takes to inspire a real Coalition of the Willing. Much laughter and plotting. She lives with four cats and a prize-winning playwright, in a fairy-tale corner of Idaho where the co-op is staffed with legions of nubile young things. How can you not look north with envy?

And then Canada with my cousins, performing in an opulent cultural center, tons and tons more food. There's this diner in North Vancouver called the Tomahawk (it's only mildly offensive), where they serve this legendary breakfast special called The Yukon Platter, which is heaps and heaps of old-style Canadian Bacon, a couple of vast eggs and diced hash browns on toast. Just staring at this staggering concentration of greasy goodness makes all the cares in the world seem frivolous and inconsequential, even as your soul and your arteries eagerly contort and harden in anticipation. You consume the plate and then you sleep for a couple of hours while your metabolism compensates for the sudden overabundance of bacon in the system. Then you wake up groggy and punchy, and the mere mention of food curdles your intestines.

My cousin gave me a lightsaber for an early birthday present. It's this gloriously extravagant costume piece that lights up and makes those wonderful sound effects. It comes with its own mounting stand. My cousin and I, we're such dorks. Somehow I managed to get this thing past customs, don't ask me how.

T-nine days to My Birthday Festivities. On Paul's Wish List:

The Complete Calvin and Hobbes
Peace On Earth
An Antique Pickaxe (or Sledgehammer)
A Utilikilt
A Gerber
Financial Security
A College Education
Universal Health Care
Plane Tickets to London
Interesting Stamps from Foreign Countries
True Love
Another Lightsaber




Matters of Incomparable Importance

Hey, all you crazy cats and kittens--

I'll be performing this weekend in a benefit for Clowns Without Borders. I'll be busting out some new old worksongs in the interests of world peace, debt relief and the unalienable right to laughter.

Other kickass rockstars and sovereign dread lords performing that evening include the irrepressible Toby "the Patella" Lawrence, the infamous Amy Jo "Thermonuclear" McCarville, and the indomitable Sarah "Liane" Foster. It's like all the planets lining up on a single night, and you can be there, too!

All good people, proud and true, will be gathering at 7 pm on Sunday the 30th of April, at the Old Church in St. Johns. Directions as follows:

The old church is on Central Ave in St. Johns: going
north/east on Lombard, pass the "Welcome to St. Johns"
sign, turn right at the Starbucks, turn right again at
the T (by the community center), look for an old
boarded-up church building on the left. There's a
sign on the building that says "American Wilderness

Very gothic, I know.



Save the Date, all you madcap little prairie dogs. My birthday is coming up, and I'm fixing to storm the Galaxy Karaoke Lounge, down on 10th and E Burnside (across the street from the Doug Fir). Friday, May 12th, starting at 8 pm (my actual birthday is the 11th, but dammit if the Pope can mess around with the calendar, then so can I.) Bring friends and relations, and your customary predilections for unhealthy liquors. Oh, quit your whining, you two-bit unhandsome mis-proportioned reprobate! It's my birthday and it's time you showed me some proper respect. Don't make me bust out a thunderstorm on your pansy-ass.

tho stars in their courses strive against me, I remain,

your milk-chocolate bootylicious funkmaster,



Correction: Our sources tell us that the benefit performance does not, in fact, benefit Clowns Without Borders, but rather Sarah Liane Foster's "Nomadic Theatre Company". Polyform regrets the mistake.


All week I've been teaching and performing all day workshops--that is, oftentimes two performances per day plus at least two workshops with as many as 80 kids per workshop. When not expertly and fearlessly tossing my puppets around, I am a squishy puddle of goo that hardly has the energy to lift a finger. Especially when the really lovely kindergarten teachers walk by.

Such breakneck pacing is perfect for also working on a monumentally ambitious London project that comes replete with at least two more performance runs/happenings back in Portland, both before and after the English Invasion, in the latter half of July. And there's a benefit piece I'm working on, too... more on that soon.

I'm in Redmond right now, much comforted and fortified by the sight of such beautiful and intimate mountains just outside my window, and the rivers and the high desert air and the gorgeous kindergarten teachers. I have a room in a motel with a kitchen and a tub, which makes me very happy.

Stay tuned, more soon--

paulmonster-mt. bachelor


bathing in miracles

There's this hot springs out here in the middle of Idaho, a sleepy little mom-and-pop establishment that has two swimming pools directly fed by the springs themselves. The geothermal water is soft and plush, like silk draping your skin. It's the kind of water that makes you savor hours; it tells you something about why those near Eastern and Mediterranean cultures built bathhouses bigger than cathedrals.

Miracle Hot Springs draws all kinds of folk. There are plenty of retirees and outpatient-types, recuperating or visiting regularly for therapeutic purposes. There's the occasional broad dose of teenagers and college kids flirting and cavorting. And there are the curious wanderers, in the area to kayak or mountain climb, or to play with puppets in local elementary schools, lord knows what drives those people. The Springs have a suite of private tubs and four or five resident masseuses (masseii? masseese?), who charge unbelievably reasonable rates (as of this posting, $55.00 for 1 hour). You get a complimentary private tub to soak in both before and after your massage. For all intents and purposes, it's like getting 10 years added to your lifespan in one visit.

All the folks who live and work nearby are angelic and ethereal, and they speak in lilting, dulcet tones. They can glance a smile at you, and suddenly the world is brimming with hope and promise. Vistas of opportunity unfold like a Woody Guthrie song in your head. The great American novel unveils itself in the innermost chambers of your jubilant heart--it's true, I'm telling you it's there. Of course, it goes away about five minutes after you get back on the Interstate, but every time I visit Miracle Hot Springs I end up drafting half my Nobel Prize for Literature acceptance speech in the walk from the pool to the changing room.

Improbably enough, they've got a trio of alligators that somehow made their way up to this place. There's a painted box turtle, too, and they sit in their own little pond off to the side, their eyes veiled and still like stones, watching and waiting. From time to time they waddle away into the murk. It could be snowing, delicate friezes of ice might edge the pond, and these guys just bask by the font of the hot spring, waiting and watching. No doubt dreaming up their own great American novels that ultimately make for only tepid rivals to mine, because these guys are reptiles, after all, and they can be cold-blooded like Ahab when it comes to this sort of thing.




Rule Britannia

Alright, kids, I've held back from mentioning this too precipitously, but here and now things are starting to simmer and form up, so here we go--

I'm going to London in July, with Randall Stuart's Inkwell Communiques project. It's a performance that I've been involved with for years now. Every year it's a little bit bigger, a little bit more splendid, than the last. This year, it's UK-sized.

Stay tuned for details. It's not too early to think about whether you've got some airline miles to get rid of. We could sure use it.

Mind the gap,



Excerpt from my Letter to Zero, 4 April 2006

It's a heavily pressed time, as usual, for me. Mostly I'm trying to figure out exactly how it is that I could make $10.00 per hour at the Library and get roughly an entire paycheck refunded at tax season, and now make just about $7.50 per hour as a puppeteer and owe $100.00 in taxes. Surely there's a catch in this somewhere...

...All that I find lacking is even what scanty stability the Library afforded me; but beyond this, by far the most provocative element at hand right now are the books--the magnificent and determined little volumes that catch me up in tidal waves of meaning and rigorous discovery. Lately, Wallace Shawn's "The Fever," Steinbeck's "In Dubious Battle," Camille Paglia's "Sexual Personae," Simone Weil's and Rachel Bespaloff's essays on the Iliad, and, of course, the Iliad itself, have all been digging deep into the soil of me, mingling with my roots, gnawing at them. They represent something of a departure from what would usually be a well-balanced and much more even-handed reading list. Normally, I travel from book to book the way Canadian Geese migrate, constantly responding to the exigencies of the previous situation by seeking out the next venue as a kind of antidote. This is a tactic I've long relied upon to stave off the worst excesses of apathetic despair, or frustration, any of which would usually ensue if I spent too much of myself in any given place--a fact which has much to do with my generall wanderlustful temperament.

In this case, however, these works happened to all rise to the top of my reading list more or less simultaneously--and instead of threatening to subsume my tenuous sense of self-assurance (such as it is), these works of succeeded in stirring that same piece of me which still slowly--glacially slowly--cultivates my long-running Work Song Project; that is, the piece of me which now does nothing but wrestle with Jacob's Angel, in the impossible and irresolvable places of our beautifully fucked-up world.

(I often wonder exactly how it is that our Elders manage to live with the cumulative weight of so much memory, with the terrible responsibility of so much remembering. Is it even conceivable that something so rending as Alzheimer's could even begin to be a veiled blessing?)

Shawn's "Fever" is the monologue of a privileged artist traveling through an oppressed city. Steinbeck's "In Dubious Battle" traces a migrant-workers' strike led by doomed communists. Paglia's "Sexual Personae" follows the development of feminist imagery and sexuality through the roots of Western culture. Weil's and Bespaloff's essays were both written at the very beginning of the 2nd World War, recasting the Iliad against our modern propensity for slaughter.

I haven't been routed by the collective strength of these, yet. They obviously rest beneath my surface as I work and play with and teach my kids. But I write this here, and for you, because I know these themes hit home for you, too; once stirred, none of this ever really lies dormant for long...

...is there a chronically unfulfillable element here, endemic to the nature of these oppressive themes? I'm humming worksongs again as I walk down the street, mulling over these bleeding books...