Monday, December 15, 2008
Five of the 6 performances were as John James Audubon. This is a yearly gig with the Louisiana Living History Project, in which each actor researches and portrays a historical person of Louisiana. This year we have 15 characters. I'm Audubon, and also the Stage Manager.
The 6th performance was a staged reading of Black Nativity by poet Langston Hughes. We presented dance, drumming, Gospel singing, and readings. I gave an impassioned sermon-ette. The next day, 2 other actors said to me, "Frederick, you can really preach it!"
"Oh," I replied, "I've been around some Baptist folk." Why do you think the blog is called Kung Fu Evangelist?
Friday, November 28, 2008
Day-after-Thanksgiving in my new digs. I'm avoiding the refrigerator. Instead, I walked to Cafe Flora, which is close to my apartment and open, to buy incense and a coffee. Sidewalks are wet from an early morning storm. The few folks outside have the same bleary looks as me. Carb-hangover. Must find coffee.
I moved in 2 weekends ago, but "officially" occupied the place 2 nights ago, when I cooked. I made the oyster dressing for the T Day table, a Southern tradition made with paper-light baguettes. My kitchen is bright with a LOT of counter space and a window that overlooks rooftops.
The whole apartment is called the Camel Back of a Shotgun. A Shotgun house is long and narrow, with no hallways, just one room behind the next. If you open all the doors, you can shoot a shotgun straight through. The Camel Back is a second story that extends only half the length of the Shotgun. A half-story, I guess. The Camel Back was popular in New Orleans because home owners could avoid tax on second stories by only building half a second story. Imagine me in my upper half-story, relaxing on my elevated wooden deck, drinking beer at sunset.
The Mississippi River is only a block away, but except for the sky my view is obstructed by wharf warehouses. I see smoke stacks on passing ships, and the peaks of the Crescent City Bridge lit up at night. My view is rather industrial on the river side. I'm glad the river is there, but prefer the kitchen view and the deck.
I live on Marigny Street, which also lends its name to the entire neighborhood. The Marigny (pronounced merry-knee) is the 3rd oldest neighborhood in New Orleans, directly adjacent to the French Quarter. I walk 3 blocks from my apartment to the Quarter. Named after the Baron de Marigny, who parceled out his estate to pay gambling debts and to house his numerous mistresses, the Faubourg (faux town) Marigny is historic, quaint, quite Gay, relatively middle class, and liberal. Bed-and-breakfast abounds, and KEE-YOOT cottages side-by-side, up and down the blocks, painted bright colors with filigree millwork. Balcony gardens, sweet olive trees, the occasional cobblestone sidewalk, decay.
You could say I moved on up to a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Had a great visit with Daniel in the windy city. We always have stimulating conversations about spirituality and art. He's a very calm, sober-minded man with a deep appetite for contemplation. Our friendship goes pretty far back. To Seattle, where we both volunteered for a queer youth drop-in center, called Lambert House.
I made a point of filling up on foods I can't get in New Orleans. Although we have more restaurants than churches (and there's a LOT of churches), most restaurants specialize in "New Orleans food". If you want variety, take a road trip like me. My first night in Chicago, we ate Pakistani. Then great Mediterranean and real Mexican (not a burrito in sight, which is actually an American food, like fortune cookies). And of course, we ate Chicago Deep Dish pizza.
One night I made dinner, Pasta Putanesca, for Daniel and 2 of his friends, one of whom is quite cute (and may visit me in New Orleans this year. Hee hee. Boyfriends everywhere!) After dinner, they read a script out loud for me in the livingroom while I took notes. After the new year, I hope to direct a play in New Orleans. The title is secret until I'm sure I've secured the rights, which is difficult because the author is dead and the play unlisted with Dramatist Play Service.
The peak of my trip was the Russian Banya, an authentic bath house. Not a gay sex club type of bath house, but the real deal Russian spa for men. For an extra price, they offered to beat me with birch sticks, but I declined. I do want to return some day and be scrubbed down in the sauna by an attendant with a broom of oak leaves. I definitely sweated out my chill. The cold plunge made me "buzzy".
I culminated my wonderful 2-month journey by riding a train they call the City of New Orleans. I even recorded myself singing the Arlo Guthrie chorus, with train sounds rumbling in the background, and sent that recording to a few friends via my cell phone. "Good morning, America. How are ya?"
Monday, November 3, 2008
Twisting, yearning Madrona peels
back his own red foreskin, exposing
the raw desire need of the Earth and a sleek
skin of green beneath.
Seems a trifle to belabor for 2 weeks, but the poem's been a learning tool. And once again, I'm attempting to express something about my relationship to desire.
During my 2-week creative residency at Port Townsend, WA, I wrote 3 poems and started a couple others, but primarily worked on my novel, Goodfriend, now 3 years in the making (and officially my longest relationship.) I'm very happy with my progress. In addition to increased wordcount (2 chapters, neither done but both very well-developed), I found my way out of the wilderness. For several months now I've complained of being lost in "Deep Middle Territory," groping my way blindly forward with my story. Or so it felt. But I did some problem solving in Port Townsend. I now believe I'm only 6 chapters away from FINISHED! With Draft 1, that is. I've written 15 chapters so far; only 6 more to go. Not so lost. I have crested the summit and can see the River Jordan.
That's wonderful news to me. I'm happy to leave Port Townsend with a plan of action, re-energized, and re-focused. Time away is a good thing.
I had a 3-bedroom apartment all to myself, with panoramic water view. On clear days, Mount Rainier is visible, plus the Cascade range and the Olympic range on opposite sides of me. If you've never experienced the Pacific Northwest, the landscape is dramatic. We had a peak Autumn this year too. Nothing to rival Vermont, but impressive for this area. The foliage has been a frequent topic of local news. I had sunny days with crisp air and then a few misty, moody days toward the end. Each morning I walked in the woods or on the beach, muttering lines to myself. I sketched. Daydreamed considerbly, and deeply imagined the lives of my characters. Did a lot of soul searching.
The facility is top-rate. There's yoga onsite, an Internet cafe, ok cell coverage, laundry and ATM. On Saturdays I rode a door-to-door bus to the Farmer's Market in town. And on Halloween, I costumed as a dead poet and walked to the waterfront. At some straight bar in town, I danced to a surprisingly great funk band and got as drunk as a living poet on payday. Women hit on me HARD. I'm not used to that.
I reserved the apartment again for this summer, an entire MONTH. Mid-August to mid-September, the peak of New Orleans hurricane season. Yay! I have a hurrication plan! A month is a long time to maintain momentum or to be alone, so I put out the word to 20 writers I know around the country to join me for some portion to write. A 3-day weekend, a week, two weeks. Several writers have replied already. Perhaps by this summer I'll be writing my LAST chapter, or better yet, Draft 2.
Friday, October 31, 2008
After Vermont, I flew directly to Seattle. My dear, dear friend Rafael (Ralphie) Ruiz picked me up at the airport (which I always like) and put me up in the guest room. I like staying at Ralph's house because he has a hot tub and takes good care of me. And his 2 new housemates are uber-gay cooks, housecleaners, landscapers, and aesthetes. I bond a lot with Stan and Dan's sensibilities, especially with Stan's, the older one. I love my sister Ralph, so it's always a joy to spend time at his home.
Greenlake is an upper-middle class neighborhood situated around a lovely lake, very traditional Seattle: Craftsman Era homes with A-frames and wide eaves, porches, gardens with ornamental Japanese maples. But Ralph's house is more mid-Century modern, and the new landscaping done by Stan and Dan really brings that out.
We had a dinner party for 10 of my oldest friends, and I mean OLD friends, like 22 years ago. It's always good to have them together. After dinner and many cocktails, I performed Mona Rogers in Person for them, the same performance I did at Gay Camp. Check out the safety-orange shoes in the photo. Melissa, my oldest oldest friend, said "Wow, it's amazing how far you've developed." It's great to have those benchmarks in life, to have people who've seen you change and evolve.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
After Connecticut, I caught another Amtrak train, the Vermonter, for Bellows Falls, a village near my destination, a remote campground in the woods. My entire journey up the East coast I've seen the landscape turn chillier and yellower. In early October, the entire state of Vermont was yellow. The village of Bellows Falls was adorable. The train let me off right in the midst of a weekly farmer's market, where I bought pumpkin bread for the first evening's potluck at the campground.
Camp Destiny, a Radical Faerie campground in the rolling hills of Vermont, hosted the annual Fall Foliage Gathering. About 45 people, mostly gay men but a couple women and 6 trans-men (that I was sure of). A couple of the trans-men were quite fetching, in that twink boy way that I like so much. For 4 days, our group sat around campfires, cooked and ate communally, hiked, flirted, and participated in daily Heart Circles, a form of personal transformation through group talk, somewhere between group therapy and a Quaker meeting.
On the final night, I performed in the No Talent Show, a regular feature at Faerie gatherings. I knocked out the Vermont Faeries with selections from Mona Rogers in Person, a show we did in New Orleans earlier this year that was directed by a rather well-known Faerie named Agnes. You should have seen me balancing on 7-inch (no kidding) safety-orange heels...in the woods! The next morning the ground was covered in divits where my heels had poked in. I offered to plant seedlings.
Gay Camp was a reflective, rejuvenating--even sexy--four days. 45 people was a good number for me, as I tend to feel anxious in large groups of gay men. I connected with several sweet, intelligent people from the Northeast, and left camp with invitations to visit Maine, Vermont, New York. I was also happy to see Faerie friends who I know from other locations, like Short Mountain in Tennessee and New Orleans.
Best of all, within minutes after my arrival, I fell into a passionate, 36-hour romance. Keep in mind, I've been on the road for a month by this time, with no real opportunities for sex. No, my hymen did not grow back! But if you know me, you can imagine the state I was in when I arrived in the woods. As I was setting up my tent, a handsome, older man kissed me in greeting. And that was that. When I finally came up for air, yellow leaves were falling all around my face.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Matt and I spent a lot of time together, talking, driving in the countryside, watching the debates, eating well. We're both good cooks who like to eat. I made a delicious cauliflower soup. He made Littleneck clams and pasta.
For me, the peak of this visit was yesterday, an afternoon at Storm King Art Center in the Hudson River Valley. I've visited before. Storm King is one of my favorite landscapes. Yesterday we packed a lunch, drove down, and I spent an hour sketching Autumn exploding behind a 2-story iron sculpture.
We also drove to Milford, Pennsylvania, a tiny hamlet where Matt used to own a gallery. We attended an Oktoberfest party at the house of the richest people Matt knows. And he KNOWS some rich people. I liked the pool house and the lake, but never saw either of the 2 greenhouses. The beer was strong, and combined with the rosy-cheeked Oompah band, I was worried for their rather abundant pre-Columbian art collection. I'm just the kind to knock over or drop sauerkraut onto a terracotta God older than the Gutenberg Bible.
While in Pennsylvania, we visited Luna Park, a fantastical, whimsical house in the woods. The artist/owner Ricky Boscarino was not home, but Matt is a friend, found the key, and gave us the tour. Madness inside and out. We climbed ladders, ducked under rafters, crawled thru narrow spaces. Molded concrete and mosaic tile everywhere, especially in the bedroom-sized bathroom.
We walked around Yale University and their student art gallery. I saw Westport, the last home of Paul Newman. We grooved to a great Jazz combo on Christopher street in NYC, then went next door to riot at the original Stonewall Inn. I've eaten good pizza, ok bagels, and pretty good Thai.
I read two new books while here, Cormac McCarthy's The Road (loved it) and David Sedaris' When You Are Engulfed in Flames (liked it). I'm also still digesting Mark Doty's book of poems, Source. I wrote this poem below, Bird House, sitting in the garden of Matt's mother, Laura.
Tomorrow I catch a train for Vermont.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Walking with my mother I saw
a burned out house, soot-marked,
But what struck my eye
was a bird house, also burned out but attached
still to the center of the porch. The bird house,
in miniature, depicting the drama of fire
more than the charred remains of the home.
Black soot streaks, the shadow of flame,
marking the memories of a family in crisis.
Perhaps a mother-bird chirped
for help here, singing out alarm
through the heart-shaped hole.
Who would come to aid her aid? Is there
heroism in the avian world
apart from the a mother's instinct to save her young?.
Did she push her chicks
through the heart-shaped hole
before the chicks could fly?
Did they tumble and crush, hobbled
for the rest of their avian lives?
With her tailfeathers brushing against a burning wall
and a heart-shaped site of sky in front,
making the best choices that she can,
which crisis does a mother bird choose?
Black soot streaks, the shadow of flame,
marking the memories of a family in crisis,
memories now abandoned and quiet.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
But overall I'm happy with my visit to Virginia. Rolling hillsides, crickets. I'm over-fed on Mom's filipino food. I've fallen into the pattern of my mother's life: picking-up and delivering, picking-up and delivering food from donation sites to homeless shelters and day centers. My mother, Thelma, is a one-woman ministry to the homeless. Bingo twice a week, listening to the old filipino ladies tapping their cards and whispering the numbers they need like invocations. At 63, she has the energy and drive of a Tasmanian devil. Wonder where I get it from?
My youngest sister, half-sister by another marriage, Elizabeth, drove 3 hours to visit. And my youngest brother, George Jr, a state wrestling champion who I hardly know, comes and goes with his buddies. The house is quiet, except for Jingles patrolling his property.
Walking somewhere with my mother I saw a burnt out house. The thing that stuck with me though was a bird house, also burned, nailed to the center of the porch. Somehow the bird house, in miniature, illustrated the dynamism of the fire more than the blackened house itself. One of those images you see that sticks with you. The bird house will likely work its way into a poem because it evokes more than it is. It reminds me of something else. I just don't know what yet. Something to do with families in crisis? Black soot-marks like the memory of crisis. Memories now abandoned and quiet.
I'm in Virginia until Wednesday. Then I catch a train for Connecticut.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
I'm in DC now, staying with new friends, part of the extended Radical Faerie network. One of my hosts is an editor of the literary journal White Crane, and I am eating his poetry collection. I'm also delighted to spend time again with my dearheart friend Johnathan Morpurgo. I'm in DC because I have a 3-day job, teaching RoboHelp software, an authoring tool for tech writers who create HTML Help systems. Big dick stuff. Day 1 went well, 2 more to go. Hope I don't run out of material.
After this job I go to nearby Fairfax, Virginia to visit my mom for a few days.
Then I may catch the Chinatown bus from DC to NYC. My friend Matt Levine will meet me, and we seriously want to visit Vermont. Hello? Vermont in October! I hope our friend Brian Stowell in Boston can meet us en route. We'll likely go to Camp Destiny, another Radical Faerie property in the woods.
From there, I don't know. Chicago? Keen to visit my old friend Daniel Hall and do a short performance of selections from Mona Rogers in Person. A free performance of about 20 minutes for the Chicago Radical Faeries, at Daniel's house.
Then another train to Seattle, to rest (shuh, as IF) a few days before I begin the wonderfully reflective 2-week creative residency in Port Townsend. Whew! All that, and work. At least in Port Townsend I'll be offline for 2 entire weeks, enforced downtime to reflect and write.
See ya'll back in New Orleans first week of November, I think.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
I think I'm expressing my inability to express.
We've been sloppy with our bodies,
boys playing scandalous games inspired
by the Bible,:
Jonathan and David,
Ruth and Naomi,
Jesus and hHis beloved,
John. My favorites were Ruth and Naomi.
Whither thou goest.
But me, I should stick with abide by things
I know how to hold onto:
the certainty of outrage,
the moral stamina to write the worst
love poem ever, to say “fuck you”
with a smile on my face. Damn!
The craziness of the flesh!
It stops me. So beautiful. I mark it.
Alright, you have my attention.
Tell me something sideways again, hint at need
in the oblique ways that you and I communicate.
Or wWrite my fate in the margins,
leaving volumes unsaid between the lines.
It's August in New Orleans,
a hard time to write a love poem. anyway
when all mMy ink pens keep exploding from the heat.
But our story epic
cannot end, not here.
No cinematic walk-offs, please.
(Yes, I am listening to myself.)
We have a longer story yet to tell,
something I can't compress into a poem.
And wWAnd why would I try?
Any ideas for a title?
Thursday, September 4, 2008
My plans to evacuate changed at the last minute. It was a high-stress moment, exacerbated by our braying mayor alarming the nation, and us. We took the well-informed advice of an extremely capable and well prepared couple who invited us to ride out the storm in their historic Uptown mansion, which is built on natural high ground and has withstood a century and a half of hurricanes. It was the right choice. We were very safe the entire time. We grilled salmon on the BBQ, swam in the pool during high wind, and talked. An occasional Valium relieved the boredom.
A few things we learned: Turn off television news and scoff at anything said by our mayor. We went to the National Hurricane Center website instead, and got a very different story about Gustav. We decided to trust the scientists and not the politicians. We also learned to have ample chocolate on hand, red wine, and to never share towels.
Yesterday I moved back into our house. All's fine. Bunch of broken branches and leaves to clean, but that's it. I'm happy to be home, despite the lack of power. I have a lot of reflect about, and the enforced downtime is good. Also I'm enjoying the novel, The Master and Margarita.
New Orleans was spared much worse damage, although that Industrial Canal over-topping gave us a scare. I love the spirit of community here, and of course, the bars are packed. Ostensibly there's a curfew at sundown, but last night you wouldn't know it. Locals who rode out the storm were in the French Quarter last night in full force, celebrating our survival and unique way of life.
Thanks to everyone for the well wishes, concerned text messages, and the occasional phone calls that got thru. The offers of money were very generous, and contact from the outside world was comforting.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Me, I'd feel better if we all left. But these are the best circumstances if we're going to stay. And we'll all be together. So I had a valium and took a swim. Feel a lot more optimistic now.
Thanks for all the great messages. Frederick
Saturday, August 30, 2008
She and I and her two large dogs are packing into the van and heading north to Memphis. Gloria's grandmother's house has 3 bedrooms and is vacant. We'll do a bit of site-seeing in the surrounding country, like Oxford Mississippi, etc. More like a mini-vacation with a lot of traffic going our way.
Fortunately, I can work from the road, assuming Internet access, at least at a Starbucks or Barnes and Noble in Memphis. From there, who knows. Maybe I'll keep on moving. I have a job in DC at the end of the month, and was planning to travel slowly across country to the creative residency near Seattle. Guess I'm starting that trip early.
a new book to read
light business clothes
the plays of Robert Chesley
I put my family photos on a high shelf, and raised other things I'd be sad to lose in case of flood water. Who knows? This may all be for naught, but right now, leaving is the prudent choice.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
"If you haven't seen it, do so...a knock-out audience winner with an astonishing performance by Frederick Mead." Patrick Shannon, Ambush Magazine
Frederick Mead returns to the Voodoo Mystere Lounge in David Schein's critically-acclaimed one-man comedy, Out Comes Butch. Presented by DecaFest and the Bienville Foundation, a portion of all ticket sales are granted to local LGBT and HIV/AIDS organizations.
$15 Advance purchase encouraged. Bring an attractive friend.
3 SHOWS ONLY
FRI Aug 29 10 pm (late nite show for adult audiences.)
SAT Aug 30 7 pm
SUN Aug 31 5 pm (after the Decadence parade!)
Join Butch on his hilarious search for identity, watching and listening for clues to his many transformations. "Butch is a kaleidoscopic individual. He's change incarnate," says Dalt Wonk in the Gambit Weekly. If you missed the 7-week run earlier this summer, come see what all the fuss was about! David Cuthbert in the Times-Picayune says that Out Comes Butch is "insanely engaging. When you're not laughing, you're watching with your mouth agape!"
"A whale of a performance!" Al Shea, WYES TV
Voodoo Mystere Lounge
On the Edge of the Quarter
718 N Rampart (at Orleans)
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Centrum was formerly a military base, now public land, and commands a stunning view of the Puget Sound, Whidbey Island, and Mount Rainier on clear days. In late October when I go, there should be mostly clear days, but we are talking about the Pacific Northwest.
Awarded is a dubious word because I still have to pay for it. Not much though. Only $300 a week for an entire house on the coast, officer's housing, fully stocked with linens, pots and pans, etc. I just need to bring food and booze (also known as creative juice). Accepted is probably a more appropriate term, or perhaps selected. There is a selection committee. I submitted a writing sample, a novel summary, CV and letter of intent in which I dropped Dorothy Allison's name heavily, and made reference to reading at the literary journal, Zoetrope All-Story, and for the William Saroyan Prize awarded by Stanford Univ Libraries.
Well, I'm pretty proud of this. And I'm grateful for the time away from New Orleans, quiet time alone with my novel. I'm also proud to report that I am almost finished with another chapter. I need to print it and read it aloud. Make a few more touches, then print the final-final date-stamped copy for the binder. Mail a copy to Dorothy, then move on to the next chapter.
Monday, August 18, 2008
We've been sloppy with our bodies,
two boys playing scandalous games inspired by the Bible games,
Jonathan and David,
Ruth and Naomi,
Jesus and his beloved John.
My favorites were Ruth and Naomi.
Whither thou goest.
to But me, I should stick with things I know how to hold onto:
the certainty of outrage,
the moral stamina to write the worst love poem
ever, to say “fuck you” with a smile on my face.
Damn! The craziness of the flesh!
It stops you. So beautiful. I mark it.
Come on, Alright, I am listening.
tTell me something sideways again, hint at need
in the oblique ways that you and I communicate.
W Or write my fate in the margins, leaving volumes
leaving volumes unsaid between the lines. I can read.
Besides, it's August in New Orleans, a hard time
to write a love poem anyway
with when all my ink pens keep explodingeing from the heat.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
SEPT 1 LABOR DAY
7pm Free to the public
Celebrate DecaFest with queer literature.
Drink, listen or sign up to read your own work
or the work of a queer writer you admire.
7 minute limit. Any form. One drink minimum.
Hosted by Frederick Mead and featuring local
queer New Orleans writers.
Voodoo Mystere Lounge
On the Edge of the Quarter
718 North Rampart at Orleans
Saturday, August 2, 2008
I would lie in your yard until the leaves
pile around my face.
I feel a new poem coming on, not a love poem per se. Something to do with longing, which all my poems seem to be about, or despair. Longing and despair, what a cheerful guy I am. Ah but there's more. It think anger is peeking thru, in the smart-alecky, falsely frivolous posture of Frank O'Hara.
We've been sloppy with our bodies,
The craziness of the flesh!
It stops you. So beautiful. I mark it.
I should stick with things I know how to hold onto:
the certainty of outrage,
the moral stamina to write the worst poem
ever, to say “fuck you” with a smile on my face.
Tell me something sideways again, hint at it(?)
in the oblique ways that you and I communicate. Write my fate
in the margins, leaving volumes unsaid
between the lines.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Five years ago I started traveling the country, writing, visiting peeps, and eventually settled here in New Orleans. I've avoided tech writing and anything techie like the plague, and few friends in New Orleans even know about that time of my life. Ya'll call me an actor! But tech work has followed me here. Recruiters still email me and well-meaning friends offer work. I say no. I've been saying no for five years and getting by on part-time jobs that a recent high school graduate could do. All to leave myself free for fiction, my true passion.
A few hours ago, I turned in my first draft of a software manual, my first technical writing contract in five years. Money's tight (tres tight) and this project just fell into my lap. A referral from a gaw-jious San Francisco friend and colleague, Jen Dalton. Comparatively speaking, it's a light-weight project in terms of scope and time commitment. But more importantly, the project came at a time when I'm *willing* to take-on a tech writing project again. That's a key difference. Not so stubborn right now. Money's part of that difference, but also I may have recovered from burn out, in part.
As I said, this project is a small, tentative step. I don't yet feel the time conflict I used to feel between tech writing and my art, in which art always lost. In fact, I'm writing more in general, both kinds. This week I whipped out a detailed 10-page first draft of the manual and pushed the novel forward another 1000 words.
On the confidence of this project and others to follow, I may be moving. Yesterday I looked at a shotgun house that's for rent, and talked to a good friend about sharing.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
This year, instead of 41, I turned thirty-eleven on Monday. Not looking so bad for thirty-eleven, huh?
I had a fun, relaxy day. Slept late, did yoga, blended a fruit smoothie, read more of Don Quixote, swam, napped.
At night, I met friends for cocktails and cake at a bar on the edge of the French Quarter. They pinned dollar bills to my vest. One of my co-actors from Uncle Vanya, Helaine Michaels, played her electronic piano. My costumer for Out Comes Butch and John James Audubon, Veronica Russell (pictured above with me and our friend Ed Bishop), brought half a peaches-and-cream pie. My housemate, Gloria Powers, brought a whole chocolate birthday cake. There was baked ziti. EVERYBODY bought me drinks. At the end of the night, I made out with someone. Eventually I'll remember his name.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
But let me also say that our production of Uncle Vanya looks pretty darn good. Thanks to the work of many people, especially Michael Martin, we've pulled together a quality production that we can all be proud of. There was quite a lot of team effort, which really appeals to me. Much of the tension we've felt is evidence of deep-felt commitment to the success of the project.
Only one weekend more of Chekhov at the Beach, then I celebrate my birthday (July 21), and then take a break from theater. A couple months devoted to writing. I actually wanted to leave New Orleans for the months of August and September, go into retreat, writing seclusion; but I can't afford that. So instead I will create seclusion for myself, in town. Take time off from theatrical pursuits, other than writing some new stage material. But the main focus is the novel, Goodfriend.
Ah my good friend the novel, my long-time companion. At 3 years, this is officially my longest relationship.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Off-set, we reverted back to our usual selves. He'd put on his iPOD ear buds, and I'd take out my Uncle Vanya script. Any romance we experienced only happened in the context of acting, during the show. Hence, a show-mance.
After 4 nights of long hours, I was wiped out. Took me 36 hours to recover my sleep. I worked 12-hour nights, from 6pm to 6am, bicycling home with the bartenders. Despite the fatigue, I did enjoy the newness of the whole experience. What a great first film experience! Dressing room, hair and make-up people on me, a production assistant shlepping me water and coffee. Thank you Sony Pictures! Everybody was super nice, and only a couple fakey-fake "L.A. types".
Today I rode my bicycle in the French Quarter, and a young woman shouted "hey, you're Prince Charming from the Mardi Gras float!" Recognized! She was probably another extra or lives on the location of our shoot.
"Why yes, ma'am, that's me. That's exactly who I am."
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
I get paid like an extra though.
Last night I worked 12 hours, from 5pm to 5am, all thru the night, staging a fake, but very convincing Mardi Gras parade (except the part about it being June.) I rode aboard the Queen's float, standing beside Empress Electra, handing her beads and holding her sceptor. My boyfriend Jonathan and I wore matching purple: velvet Duke's robes, capes, and plumed hats (did I mention the part about it being June?) Empress Electra was dressed like a cross between Queen Elizabeth I and Ann Margaret. Big collar, shapely gams.
Film is an odd acting experience, stop-start. The camera rolls for 10 seconds, they yell "cut", re-set the shot for 20 minutes, then roll the same scene for another 10 seconds. Cut. Totallly different than stage, where you inhabit the life of a character for a continuous hour-and-a-half, and interact with a live audience. Totally different buzz. I was buzzed last night after the movie too, but mostly from the new experience. I was so fatigued I felt nauseous.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
The reviews of Butch are coming in. Very positive. We've decided to extend 2 weeks. We'll also be adding a Sunday matinee, but have not yet announced it officially. Things are going great!
"This surprisingly entertaining oddity is delivered with complete commitment by Frederick Mead, whose subtle, gender-specific, ever-changing vocal inflections, physical stance and crazy-eyed performance is a knockout."
Thursday, May 8, 2008
I adore the costumes. Veronica Russell, who costumes the Louisiana Living History Theatre and of course made my John James Audubon clothes, really worked with me and the script to develop visual transformations. Some pieces tear off, some tie on. For each of the "Butches", Veronica developed a strong look. My favorite piece is the leisure suit jacket with the pink flamingo on the back.
The space is quirky, but works well for the material. It's a notorious former drug den, the Voodoo Lounge, on the very edge of the French Quarter. The name sounds like underbelly glam, but Voodoo was pretty icky. They shut down and nobody noticed. Michael Martin, my director and friend, is taking the risk of re-opening the Voodoo as a theatre folks hang out, with performance and rehearsal space for rent. Out Comes Butch is the debut show. Overlapping my rehearsals, Michael's housemates have been mopping, dumping, and wiping yuck out. Smells like Pine Sol now.
More to come...
Sunday, April 27, 2008
I wrote Crossover in a heat, 5 days of sustained concentration, waking up in the morning to peck at keys, arranging and expanding the tropes on my lunch breaks at work, at night delaying sleep to smooth out the diction and reveal more meaning.
It’s odd to have a relationship with a poem. I recite it aloud to myself several times every day, exploring its resonance with me. At times it feels like an emotional touchstone when I feel churned up. Other times it feels like the memory of intense emotions. Reading it feels like a statement. I’ve said something meaningful. That’s what I ask most for from myself in my writing, that it be meaningful.
Now that I’m done with the first draft, I’m ready to read it aloud in public. Had 2 opportunities so far, but neither came to fruition. So far, only Michael Martin has heard the poem aloud. I’ve emailed it to several other friends, mostly in Seattle where the poem is set, but also to Victory, the older man who was very influential on the poem (and on me), and to Boychick, its catalyst.
The poem seems to communicate with gay men in particular, men my age. I’ve received a few email comments, especially calling out the phrase “desire pulling up coastal trees by the roots.” Must be a common enough experience.
I’m learning from this poem. About my ability to discern between desire and circumstances, about drifting versus conscious navigation through life, about my emotional maturity, and about my relationship to desire in the larger, existential sense, or Buddhist sense.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
by Frederick Mead
It takes a heretical, decisive step
to become a man, to crossover water
without caveats, insecurities, failed courage,
our need weighing heavily on the iron horizon,
or mad infatuations. Without desire
pulling up coastal pine by the roots,
unquenchable desire discarding trunks
like flotsam to the shore, constructing a barricade
of driftwood, which only fog can wash over.
Yet through this dense fog, our ferryboat
bravely navigates the chain
of San Juan islands, green quartz
emerging then receding, jagged-edged
in the fog. We can see no stars or sun
to guide us. Is it heresy to trust
an unseen Captain? Whose permission do we
need to take command?
Breathless on the farther shore, surprised
by the brevity of the journey, we disembark safely
at the terminal. We trace a finger over contours
of the relief map, apprehending in retrospect
the winding, circuitous path we have traveled.
What guidance do the stars and sun provide?
Stars are wishes and dreams achieved
through possibility. The sun? Merely an egg yolk
melting through our fingers. Food for the next voyage.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
It We It takes a decisive,
to become a man
to cross water yes, with without caveats
insecuritiesy, failed courage fails
seeing only my our need on the iron horizon,
mad infatuations, desires forever
pulling up small coastal trees
by the roots, yet then dissatisfied but unsatisfied,
discards them the trunks like so much flotsam building along constructing on to the shore,
constructing a driftwood barricade of driftwood
that only fog washes over
In a Through the this dense fog,
a the our ferryboat navigating bravely navigates
the chain of San Juan islands in the fog, emeralds
emerging then receding, emerging then receding in the fog.
in the fog. We can see, no stars or sun to guide us.
anxiety Is it heresy to trust an unseen Captain?
in the fog. Who's permission do we need
to take command?
breathless on the farther shore, surprised,
when safely we safely arrive safely Upon safely arrival at the terminal,.
breathless, we see trace a our a finger over the relief map
and realize apprehend in retrospect realizing in retrospect
the winding, circuitous path we have followed all along.
What guidance can do the stars and sun even give provide?
and that stars are merely wishes
and dreams achieved manifested
the sun, melting like merely an egg yolk
melting through my our fingers,
food comfort for the next voyage
Saturday, April 12, 2008
He said exactly what I expected the hear, but hearing it makes the difference. Nothing was a surprise, except how clear he was, and how specific to my situation. Knowing me very little, except socially and on stage, he was astonishing at his knowledge of my inner workings. "You're not into seduction. You expect people to see you, understand how wonderful you are, and go for it. Well, that's just a fantasy." Ouch, but spot on. I've been sitting alone on bar stools for 20 years waiting to be approached, cursing my un-attractiveness.
He told me what to expect now that I'm entering my 40s. I have a future of mad infatuations with younger, brilliant guys ahead of me. And I'm entering a period of rich imagination, which I should enjoy. Be in the moment, accept what is, and create what you want. "Stars are wishes and dreams achieved through possibility." He told me to take command.
Then he got down to brass tacks and told me my approach was wrong. He outlined a new approach and gave specific examples. Hot! examples.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Here's our first "review". It's located in the comment section below my announcement of the show.
I had a blast. So fun to be on stage again, to work with friends, and to learn from Agnes. And it was fun to become this character, Mona Rogers. My transformation is slowest of the 5 actors. I start as a businessman with briefcase, and gradually transform into blond bombshell. By the time I burst onstage in heels, wig and aqua eye shadow, I'm her.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Sunday, March 30, 2008
I recognize the pattern. Two dramatic scenes followed by a reflection on the meaning of the chapter. The reflection happens as a conversation between the protagonist and his mentor. Mentorship is a repeating motif.
He did. He did. He did. I’m tired of hearing myself blame him. I did. I did. I did. I ignored the red flags. I swung hot and cold, in and out of my shell. I scolded him when I should have told him what I wanted. I ignored my own better judgment, saw only my need.
Here's what I understand about me: I don't know how to separate affection from love. I'm not talking about sex and love. They're too easy to separate. But affection... I can relate to his need for affection from an older man. I think most American men walk around starved for affection from their fathers, spilling over into our adult relationships. If I'm already sexually interested in a man, and I believe I have a chance at romance, add affection to the mix, and I'm lost.
I do believe I had a narrow window of opportunity. We might have connected. He was considering it, but then I dropped the ball or he changed his mind. Regardless, the rules changed, and that messed me up. Now I'm trying to reprogram my beliefs to "I’ll never have a satisfying relationship with this guy." That's difficult for me to accept. Honestly, I really don’t accept it, not emotionally. The soul knows only that it is hungry. The danger is, lest by a lie, we convince ourselves we are not. But intellectually I see the pattern and can prognosticate the future. We won’t be together.
In the short term I have a lot more heartache ahead of me because I don’t want to lose his friendship. In part, because I love him and want him in my life. But also out of pride. I’m embarrassed at the way I mishandled a very similar situation a few years ago. I am glad that particular young man is gone from my life, but that whole melodrama is an object lesson for me this time around. I’d rather not be so reactive and irrational. I’d rather not lose this friendship.
What to do? Can I be near him, love him, suffer the rejection, know the irrationality of the whole situation, and be ok? I guess I have to, since this is the path I’ve chosen. What are my other choices? Get drunk, seek dangerous sex that fails to comfort me, cling to the next guy in the line-up? Swallow my hurt, and then lash out?
Or just let it wash over me...
Sunday, March 23, 2008
It's gorgeous here today. In the 70s, sunny with a mild breeze from the Mississippi River. I hope a couple cute guys I like show. Or I meet someone new. That would be good for me, because I'm hung up on someone I can't have. I hate that tension, that disconnection between the mind and the emotions. Everything I know tells me to get the frack away from this younger man. He's not available to me. Which, of course, makes him ideal. What? You're married with kids in another state? You're perfect for me! Emotionally crippled and a liar? That rings my bell! Sure wish I could figure out this dysfunction and fix it at the core.
I've been here before. In fact, exactly here before, hung up on a younger guy who gives me mixed messages, plays cat-and-mouse, treats me like his boyfriend except in bed. When it suits him, he reminds me we're not boyfriends by hurting my feelings, then turns around and coaxes me back out of the shell I retreat into. Aye. The last time I was here culminated in drunken tears (God that was embarassing!) and the loss of a friendship.
Yes, we did talk. A couple weeks ago we had the all-important "what are we doing?" conversation. We (he) decided that we're not dating, which makes complete sense intellectually. Just wish my heart would catch up. Eventually, soon probably, he'll introduce me to a new boyfriend, or some guy will hit on him in front of me and they'll go home together. When that time comes, I sure pray I've got someone else in my life, or I'm just in a better place emotionally.
This time I'm trying to learn. Just trying to pay attention to what I'm doing, to notice how I react. Pretty much I've been walking around since New Years with a heavy heart, wincing at rejections, biting my tongue. I don't want to be hurt, angry, reactive guy. I hate being that guy. But the best I can manage is to realize that I *am* that guy sometimes. I watch it happen, and try to observe the mental construction. Zazen training comes in handy.
There's a Buddhist story about a monk who was attacked by a tiger. As the tiger ate the monk, he realized he could not escape, that he was about to die, and that he felt great suffering. He saw this experience as a gateway to Enlightenment. As his body died in the jaws of the tiger, he observed himself, observed his experience and reactions. His deeper mind saw the mental construction as independent from his true self. He saw the truth of No Self, and gave himself to the universe. He died, but did not die at all. Isn't that the point of Easter?
Monday, March 10, 2008
The writer I call my mentor, Dorothy Allison, will arrive in New Orleans in a couple months for the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival. I’d like to have something new to show her. One or 2 more chapters.
Last weekend, I read at a literary salon. Marda Burton, a travel writer and French Quarter socialite, has hosted this almost-monthly salon for years. Everyone in her graciously appointed apartment knew everybody else, all wealthy, Proustian FQ denizens, except me. I live on the other side of the railroad tracks, downriver. I was by far the youngest person. The only brunette. Despite all the champagne I kicked back, I felt uncomfortable until I read.
I prepared a 7-minute excerpt from a chapter in which the Pastor’s daughter, Sharon, is a hero. I felt very confident in reading. It was extremely well received by the group. One writer even said “I can’t follow that young man. We’re in the presence of a master.” Oh my. Unfortunately, some people I wanted to impress--a National Book award finalist and a local publisher--were on the balcony also kicking back the champagne and yucking it up.
Anyway, I read. I survived. I did well. And I gained motivation from it, re-discovering my love for the novel and my characters. Sharon felt really alive for me as I read.
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Big Easy Theatre Awards
I work for the foundation that produces the Big Easy Entertainment Awards, one for theater and one for popular music. Last month we also produced an award program for Classical music, ballet, and opera. This year, I have more of a hand in the theater awards gala. I'm on the nominating committee, I tallied all the nominations, ordered the awards, suggested performers from nominated shows to the producer, Margo DuBos, and arranged their order in the line-up. Next week I do seating.
Still waiting to hear, but moving forward as though we're accepted to DramaRama with our 15-minute excerpt from the radio play. My cast returns, except for 1. The part of the young woman, the "Nancy Drew" of the mystery, is now played by the voice of Mandy Turner. Yay! Love Mandy, and she's in demand. Mary Pauley returns to do her amazing voice work, playing 2 different characters in conversation with each other. I'll do the sound effects myself this time, as Cammie West is committed to 2 other DramaRama productions already. Plus it gives me something to do besides wring my hands. My original keyboardist is not available, so I'm courting my ex-boyfriend, Striking Southern Gentleman, to play.
Audubon in New Orleans
I'm currently re-reading select passages from the Audubon diaries. Amongst my collection of Audubon references, I have an anthology of his writings, including diary entries, letters to his much-loved wife, and selections from the Ornithological Encyclopdia, the companion to the book of paintings. At DramaRama, I also hope to perform Audubon in New Orleans as a storyteller, without a word-for-word script. Instead, I draw from a body of knowledge and extemporarize in the moment. I know the arc of the larger story I'm telling, and the 3 main incidents that construct the arc. Audubon will speak, in his own words, about his experiences in New Orleans in 1820, a major turning point in his artistic development.
Mona Rogers in Person
Director Agnes de Garron is a force of nature. I expect non-stop inspired wackiness the entire trip with Agnes on this project. Mona Rogers in Person is a one-woman show performed by 6 actors. 21 short monologues are distributed amongst an extremely diverse cast. Agnes cast some actors I really like to work with, Michael Martin (see Out Comes Butch and Uncle Vanya below), Mary Pauley (see ORIGIN above), and Brad Brooks.
I know Agnes from the New Orleans Radical Faeries and also from the San Francisco order of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Agnes is a founder of the order.
Out Comes Butch
Director Michael Martin has dangled this carrot as long as we've known one another. The time has come, and we're meeting today to talk schedule and logistics. Out Comes Butch is a one-man show in which I transform over 40 minutes into 5 different characters, all telling a continuous story. We'll have cut-away costumes and wigs on stage. I'd also love a change-able set piece, like panels that unfold to reveal another locale. The play was written in San Francisco in the 70s, and makes period references to "human potential" proponents like EST and Erich Fromm.
This is another ambitious project by Michael Martin and his production company, Four Humours. The entire company is involved in this project, to ensure it sees an Opening Night, I suspect. A lot of people, including me, were disappointed that Michael cancelled his Night of the Iguana production. I'm on board for Uncle Vanya because it's Chekhov, I've got a good role (Doctor Astrov), and I hope to have future opportunities to direct for this company.
Saturday, February 9, 2008
San Francisco Visits
My SF friend Matt Levine came to visit for a week over Mardi Gras, and stayed at my place. It was special to have him here with me, experiencing New Orleans the way I do. We caroused, roaming under the influences of alcohol, joy, and prescription medications. I fondled a male stripper from Montreal. Matt got to march in a Mardi Gras parade, a good one too, Muses. His first-ever Mardi Gras parade, and he got to march IN IT as a tech assistant to the butterflies. More pics coming soon.
How do I explain what's happening in this costume? "Grey Gardens" was the theme of the Radical Faerie costume ball. Rather than portray a specific person from the documentary, I decided to embody the name: Grey Gardens. My headpiece has sticks, birds, and a nest with robins eggs. Let's just say, I was not going for pretty with this costume. More like a mind fuck.
I slapped Matt into costumes nearly every time we left the house. Costume parties galore, including the Ste Anne ball, the Ste Anne march, and the Purple Party. We costumed for parades. After dark, we rushed home and changed into boy drag, then hit the bars.
Oy, I'm feeling it today.
Matt read a recent chapter from the first-draft binder, and told me to celebrate my progress. I admitted I've been having a crisis of faith, of confidence, a reluctance to write at all, even on the blog. Of course I'm always writing, but not always with serious intent. I know I should cut myself some slack and factor Mardi Gras into whatever life goals I plan around this time of year. Writing definitely took the backseat to Carnival, but as a result, I'm back with new inspiration.
Today I feel optimistic about re-approaching the difficult chapter. Think I see an entrance point, ironically, in the ending. And I see a significant scene of the next chapter too. And getting back to the blog is a good indicator of my attitude toward writing in general. My blog is often warm-up for the novel.
No Woman No Cry
I recently had a few rapid-burst crushes that I'm now over. My favorite crush is not into me. I see him on occasion, and it eats at me. But oh well. Move on, right? In the meantime, I dated a youngun' who caused me much anxiety and ultimately cured me of my crush on him. Over Mardi Gras, I also met a younger, sweeter version of the one who made me anxious, but it was short-lived, and he returned to New York on Ash Wednesday. Alas, alas.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
When I need to find my way back to the path, I go back to the basics. Reading good fiction, reading about writing, and yoga. Currently I'm reading A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler, which I began, what, a couple months ago? Back to it. Also re-reading my second favorite nuts-and-bolts fiction textbook, The Art of Fiction by John Gardner, who is very much a role model. On Moral Fiction resonates very strongly with me. Gardner is querulous, opinionated, and practical. However my first favorite nuts-and-bolts fiction textbook is Steering the Craft by Ursula Leguin. It all boils down to sentences.
I've been practicing yoga again, regularly for a couple weeks now. My low back hurt during the Living History project, and I did stress my back with yoga, so took a break. Now my back is healthier and more pliable, and I'm into a pleasurable routine again. Signing up for a gym membership, hopefully tomorrow.
The organ donation thing.
I had an acting job last week that was intense, and paid well. A Seattle company hires Improv actors to conduct employee trainings. We enact scenarios that simulate real-world, high stress situations. The world in this case is organ donation. We worked with grief counselors and nurses to help them approach grieving families to broach the topic of organ donation. Time is critical. 92000 people wait for organs right now. The actors create a safe environment for the counselors to work, within the context of highly-charged emotion.
I took the news 21 times, and sobbed each time. It was exhausting. The body doesn't know the difference between real grief and stage grief, if you're really feeling it. I was. Each time.
I feel like I did something positive, meaningful in a measurable way--lives saved. Since this training program began in October, consent rates in Louisiana have increased from 43 to 73 percent. One consent can save 7 to 50 lives, including bone and tissue donations. I'll gladly do the work again.