Last Thursday at my improv theater, I teamed up with friend Jeremy Griffin to perform The 200, a two-person team that was a spoof of The 300, an extravagantly violent movie from last spring that I happened to like very much. The 300 took a historical event - the Battle of Thermoplyae - and interpreted it very liberally. So Jeremy thought of the idea that we should ask for two suggestions - a time and a place - and improvise from there. It was brilliant, and the resulting scenes were really fun: "Depression" + "Bolivia," and "1920s + Pluto."
Compare this poster to the real thing. I think my ferocity matches Leonidas', no?
Last September, we buried our grandfather in Summit, New Jersey. He had died peacefully in his sleep, the last of our grandparents to pass. Dad, Donny and I drove up together. The wake and funeral was a warm family time - we remembered what an extraordinary, difficult, generous, distinguished man August Carl Tietjen had been. I remember reading about him and thinking what an amazing life he'd had, so different from mine - the old American dream, finding a job out of college and sticking to it, rising all the way to the top of a fine respected profession, and providing for his beloved, prodigiously talented wife Mary Louise, and their seven children, of whom my mother was eldest. They lived in an enormous, elaborate house in Summit. I spent a long hour wandering the premises for the last time, lingering long in the tiny corner bedrooms, with their antique dressing-mirrors and delicately-patterned Victorian wallpaper.
I have only a few pictures, which you can see here. Those of you reading, if you have more, please send them!
It's time to cross over into autumn. I felt it quite clearly today, walking home from work. Light cool rain fell from a white sky. So I came home, closed all my windows, took a hot shower, lit my warm cider candles and put on Enya's The Celts for the first time this year.
Time for magic, fire, witchiness, quietness, cableknit, cold rain, cuddling, hibernating. Time to take everything in and close the doors, let it mix, brew, gestate. Time to cross over.
I got my tonsils out! This is me sucking down ginger ale after returning to consciousness. I'm happy to report that the surgery went well, mostly. There was a nasty interval where I was vomiting blood for several hours, but hey!, once that was taken care of, it was smooth sailing. Dad was really wonderful - he drove me to the clinic, took care of me, stayed with me for a day afterwards, waking me up every few hours to drink water and take my painkillers. So it's been pretty nice, actually, convalescing at home. I get to eat pudding, Jello, popsicles, and ice cream for every meal, and I've been catching up on letter-writing, books and movies. Happy days!
For some reason, I was really nervous about "going under" - when would I lose consciousness? How would I regain it? What would I remember? But the surgery team were really pros. They tucked heated blankets around me and asked me about my science fiction writing. The last thing I remember is joking, "You all will be characters in my next story." And then I was out.
Today Clare will be debuting a new alter ego: the White Witch! (...which may or may not bear a resemblance to the White Witch of Narnia. Mary and I said that Clare should serve Turkish delight at the reception.) Here's what Clare says about the performance:
I have a newly-arisen performance persona: White Witch. She is ready to do unpleasant but necessary things while entertaining you. In her first outing, I will be performing her at two upcoming shows, along with my mezmerizing helpers Sharon Estacio and Meredith Mandel, and a basket of bread.
There is one more performance remaining after this: Dixon Place Moving Men series Tuesday September 18 8:00pm 258 Bowery between Houston and Prince, New York City Tickets: (212) 219 - 0736 $12, $10 students and seniors
Also, be sure to check out her Weekly Rites website for new posts and new dances. I find them so inspirational, and read them like an artist's horoscope.
Early this summer, Donny found a kind of treasure (horror? delight?) in the sweet gum tree by the tool shed: it was a snakeskin, freshly shed. When I came to visit Melleray, he and Dad walked me over, and waited until I had spotted it on my own. It was like trying to spot the last ornaments on the Christmas tree. I had to refocus my eyes and see differently. You can see three pictures here.
Dad wrote nine poems about the snakeskin, and sent them to me yesterday; you can read this latest, haunting cycle here.
515 East Main has been busy since the Byrnes vacated! The most notable change the Palanzos have made, from the exterior at least, is the restoration of the wraparound porch. Clare took some pictures of the construction when she was passing through, and I got to see the finished product when I was in Annville last weekend. It looks just gorgeous. See pictures here.
I just finished Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, a book I think everyone in our family has read, and I'm the last. Dad used to teach it in his courses at LVC. It is really spectacular, and should be required reading for every artist.
One afternoon recently, I stepped out of my apartment onto the balcony and saw this dazzling butterfly perched on the railing. I stood stock-still for a good two minutes, watching it open and close its wings. I had just been reading Annie Dillard's description of how to stalk muskrats - by deconstructing completely, forgoing all ego, becoming only an array of receptive senses. I tried to do the same thing with this butterfly, and mostly succeeded (though interrupted by flashes of "I'm doing the Annie Dillard thing! I'm doing the Annie Dillard thing!").
This poor baby was probably nipped by a bird, though it could still fly well. And it was good enough to pose for me a long while so I could rouse enough ego-function to take pictures. (Click on the picture above to see a bigger version.)
Last month, Clare and Stefan took a big road trip out west. They went through Canada, Montana, Arizona, Tennessee; camping almost every night, and visiting landmarks old and new, from our parents' old haunts to desert monastic communities...a Journey with a capital J!