Sunday, March 30, 2008

End of the Tunnel

Writing is going very well. I'm making good progress on my so-called "difficult chapter". It's difficult because I'm in middle territory, flying blind, pecking forward one keystroke at a time. But I've arrived at that place where I see a light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe only 4 or 5 more writing sessions before I hear the "click" that tells me to stop.

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.

Trying to Learn

Here's what I understand so far: All he wanted was affection from an older man. Unfortunately for me, he used sexiness to get my attention, and once secured, he then had to manage me, fend off my advances while maintaining my interest. How stressful for him. But he's been here before. He was able to predict that he would break my heart, and was right. I don't think he's at all malicious, but he does not seem to see how he creates this scenario. He's doing it now in fact, with a mutual friend.

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

The Zen of Easter

Today is the first Easter since I was a kid that I even give a damn. Easter is usually just another Sunday, with lamb. We have a fat leg roasting in the oven right now. Plus a cabbage from our garden. Today I look forward to Easter because I'll be riding on a float in the Gay Easter Parade, which winds thru the French Quarter. There are neighborhood parades all over New Orleans today. I may stop off at another parade on my way to the one I'm in! New Orleanians sure like to parade.

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

Back on the Ball

Writing is picking up. I’m writing the novel 2 or 3 times a week, plus this personal blog and the theatre blog for Gambit Weekly. Blog writing is usually a good indicator of my relationship to writing in general. If I’m avoiding the novel, I’m not writing anything. So it’s good to be back on the ball. Just wish I had, made, gave, more time to writing.

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

Irresistible Gravity

Theater has an irresistible gravity these days. My world revolves around theater more than ever before in my life. I see 2 or 3 plays a week. I recently auditioned for 3, was cast in 2. And I'm organizing, with Gloria Powers, the Big Easy Theater Awards. And I write a weekly theater blog for Gambit Weekly.

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.

Uncle Vanya
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.