Monday, March 31, 2008

come on, April

Yeah, I'm done with March this year. In like a lion and out like a caged lion on fire, clawing and roaring and biting and, well, on fire for fuck's sake.

Turning the page tomorrow may not change a thing, but it's going to feel good, still.

I wonder how they handle April Fool's Day around the hospital?

"Your tests have come back and I'm afraid... well... perhaps you should call your family. And tell them... that your doctor is some kind of nut! Ha! I was just screwing around! Ha! Got you! Why are you clutching your chest and not breathing? Are you just screwing around back at me? Sir? Umm... sir? Uh oh. Nurse! Nurse! Get my lawyer on line one, please!"

And Nurse Rita goes through this every year on April 1st. She's on the phone with the lawyer,

"Yeah, Randy? Yeah, it's Rita. He killed another one. I know. I know. All right. Will I see you tonight at the place? All right. Love you, too."


The weekend was all right, all things considered. My folks flew in from St. Louis and lots of good people came up to the Unit and distracted Ms. Walsh. She busted out yesterday morning, Teapot Splint and all, wheeling her IV tree right out of the front doors of the hospital to stand in the sunshine for about twenty minutes. Hospital security and random New Yorkers just staring at her in her hospital gown.

She was beaming like the Sun Itself.

She can only go through doors sideways, left arm leading the charge. Kind of like a human battering ram. Which is what she really is, I guess.

Trying to get some work done this morning. Edinburgh, Winchester and I'm doing a ten-minute thing next Monday at Dixon Place. Will have to rehearse that at some point this week, I suppose.

Missed the Monday Morning Music Quiz last week. The only song I could hear that day was Art Blakey's A Night in Tunisia, banging and rattling through my head at top volume, had to shout out my thoughts to myself over the racket.

I'm better now.

So, let's play Spot the Phoney:

Three of these songs are real and sound great when played loudly. One of them hasn't been written yet.

1. Take Me Down to the Hospital, The Replacements

2. Tuff Enuff, The Fabulous Thunderbirds

3. Drive the Pain, The Soup Dragons

4. Baby's Burning, Rev. Horton and the Heat

Extra points if you can quote the opening lines of the real ones, gold stars if you can write the opening lines of the phoney.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

eight days a week

We've been working overtime and right through the weekends here at the Museum ever since little Banana Scrap pulled the Fireball Trick. We had to let the intern go last month when we realized he was entirely imaginary, so it's just been me and the cat holding down the fort, working like a pair of one-armed paper-hangers.

Weird thing about that last image is that when I was but a boy growing up in St. Louis, my folks actually hired a one-armed paper-hanger. Can't remember if it was Junior or Clarence or their father Pappy, but one of them had the hook. They were painters, plumbers, carpenters, electricians and yes, paper-hangers.

Not making a word of this up.

Nancy is strong up there on the 8th Floor. The unthinkable pain is gone (praise you Yawheh and the skilled hands of Dr. Palmer Bessey), but it's still far from being remotely Fun.

Tuesday they'll remove the Teapot Splint and take a look at the wound and then sometime in the next week they'll do the graft. Five days after that, she's back on the Lower East Side.

She's in pretty good spirits. Seeing people helps.

She's developed a strange attachment to my black hoody and insists that it stay with her in the hospital room. If you know me, you know my black hoody, as I usually wear it every day of my life, up until about a week ago when she wouldn't let me leave the room with it.

I love that hoody.

So, you see, we're all suffering through this in our own way.

Huge points to the Scamps, Jenny and Louise, for having the class and imagination to arrange for a bottle of 16 year old single-malt whiskey to be delivered to the hospital... for me.

I owe you a few rounds, ladies. And we'll enjoy them this summer with Nan.

I'm always looking for good band names, the hospital has given me a few:

Percocet. An obvious one for some speed-metal trio. Throw an umlat over the "o" in the middle, write it up in gothic script, you've got a T-shirt I'd wear.

The Greenberg Pavilion. That's where the Burn Unit is. I imagine the band to be some kind of folkie, acoustic, hippie collective led by Seth Greenberg, a fiddler or a master of the glockenspiel.

Thanks to Brian Parks for reminding me a few years ago how funny the word "glockenspiel" is. Say it out loud and you can't help but smile.

The Burn Unit. Right? Just thought of that while typing this, but it's great. How about an all-girl rock 'n roll combo, standing there all beautiful and fierce, laying down hooky, catchy three-minute riffs one after another in some roadhouse out in Jersey?

"We're The Burn Unit, thank you and good night!"

And my favorite,

Sabbath Elevator

A sabbath elevator is programmed to stop on every floor from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, so that anyone of the Orthodox persuasion can enjoy the modern convenience of the elevator without operating machinery of any kind.

It just goes up and down, floor by floor, all on its own, all through the night.

I've been stuck on it twice, once last Friday and once yesterday morning. Maddening to lose those nine seconds. It's like God became a nine-year old kid and hit all the buttons as a prank.

But the band.

Sabbath Elevator.

The name is so good, I don't even know what they'd sound like. The songs would be really smart, great lyrics and surprising harmonies. They'd probably come out of the South, Austin-influenced but they'd have their own complete sound. They'd have their Brooding Genius Front Man, a la Michael Stipe or David Byrne, but they'd have an extraordinary rhythm section as well.

Sabbath Elevator, man. Turn it up and check out Track Three.

In art news, I found out this week that I've been awarded a commission from the Belfast Festival to write something for a political cabaret they're doing in October.

The Irish are intensely involved in American presidential politics, so the Tinderbox Theater in Belfast is doing something called "Swing State Cabaret" and me and three other writers are... writing something for it.

Or something.

Details are still sketchy to me, but they're asking how they can wire me money, so I'm keeping my mouth shut until the dollars are in the bank.

It's Sunday morning outside my window.

Quiet down here on Ridge Street, just the birds in the trees of the churchyard across the street. Sun coming through the blinds, cat asleep on the bed behind me. Coffee brewed and waiting, all dark and strong in the pot. Some German lady singing something Bach wrote a few centuries ago coming out of the speakers.

And no one here to share it with.

Ah, come on home, Nan.

Me and the cat can't do it without you.

The cat is, frankly, worthless when it comes to day-to-day administrative duties. Just doesn't seem to get it.

And I'm always better with an audience, as you all know.

Friday, March 28, 2008

thanks all

I couldn't have gotten through these last eleven days without the fierce love and gentle support of my friends and family.

Nancy and I have said to each other in the past how lucky we are that our friends have become our family and our family have become our friends.

Doesn't always happen that way.

We know how lucky we are and man alive we're grateful for you fine people.

I'm lifting the soft quarantine on Ms. Teapot. She said yesterday that if she didn't see someone every day from the Outside she'll go crazy and if you've ever seen Walsh crazy, well...

It's like one of those Japanese horror movies where people run through the streets of Tokyo.

She may change her mind and I'll have to rescind the order, but for now, come one, come all.

68th and York. Call me first, 917.539.3153.

And thank you.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

she's a little teapot

For five days.

They've got her wrapped up in bandages all around her left side and down her left arm and then there's this huge metal splint thing going from her ribcage to her left bicep, keeping her arm straight out.

If you do the "I'm a little teapot, short and stout..." bit and then stop once your spout is out and then hold that pose until Tuesday, you'll be doing an Imitation of Walsh.

Or just try it for three minutes.

Yeah. No fun.

For you med school kids, yesterday Dr. Bessey did a "tangential excision and Integra placement to the upper left extremity and torso." Least that's what we signed off for.

God knows what they actually do once the patient is out. Sit around and talk about how they're going to spend all of that crazy money, probably. Smoke cigarettes and play poker. I don't care, long as she comes back whole.

The bandages are so thick, it looks like she's getting ready to train attack dogs up there in the Burn Unit. Zero exaggeration. It's good, because there's now no danger of accidentally hurting the wound. You could throw tennis balls at the wound and she wouldn't notice.

But this is going to be a tough five days. Go back to the teapot pose and try to walk around. Pour yourself a glass of juice. Take a nap.

Yeah. No good.

I'm getting notes from UPS and the post office when I get home at night, so if anyone is trying to send us packages, best bet is to send them right to the hospital. We don't have a doorman (hell we haven't had an elevator for the last five years) and our post office branch, the Knickerbocker Station, is some kind of cosmic cruel joke. Bunch of sullen Chinese guys and somehow it's always everyone's first day on the job.

What would be helpful right now would be for me to give you the address of the hospital.


New York Presbyterian Weill Medical Center Cornell Something? Up on 68th and York? Street address is 525 E. 68th, I know that. And she's in room 8-401.

I've been up there for a minimum of ten hours a day for the last nine days and I honestly couldn't tell you what it's called. And for some reason I don't feel like looking it up. In my head it's called:

The Hospital
Where Nan Is
Uptown, Take the Drive
Unbelievable, New York

So try that or try this new "The Google" thing I've been reading about.

It occurred to me last night that there are some things you almost never see, like a mean pediatric nurse or a really cool collection agency. Just doesn't happen. I guess you have to be careful about the job you choose. You are what you think, but what you do all day teaches you how to think. I've heard cops talk about getting "cop eyes", where you instinctively size up people, walk into a room looking for trouble. We all know those performers who are never off-stage, even when you're stuck in a cab with them, just trying to go home. You talk to veterinarians and you think, "What a cool, relaxed person."

That's why I've decided to face up to it and join the priesthood. Nancy may not understand, but I'm going to marry Christ and make an honest man out of him.

Do priests marry Christ or just move in with him? Nuns marry Christ, I know that. Priests just become domestic living partners with Christ, I guess. Except in Hawaii.

I've got to do some research on this.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

a good day

She did great.

Surgery went exactly as it was supposed to, in and out in two hours. No more burn, now just a big-ass wound with a bunch of cow collagen smeared all over it. She's back in her room on the 8th Floor and I'm home with the cat.

More tomorrow, but so far we're batting 1000.

Now I'm going to pour myself a glass of Johnny Walker Red and fall to the floor.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

the plan

Nancy's second on the docket for surgery tomorrow morning, almost today, Wednesday the 26th. Puts her on the table around 9 AM. Dr. Bessey mentioned that the first patient, some kid, may get bumped.

Some unspoken reason why it may not be his day, he didn't elaborate. We, for obvious reasons, didn't press.

I'm not a board-certified burn doctor, not yet, so I won't go into the specifics, but Nancy opted for Door Number Two tomorrow, which is the first of two procedures.

Tomorrow they'll remove all of the damaged tissue and then apply cow collagen (bovine collagen for you 4H kids), brand-named Integra. Look it up under Integra or burn surgeries or or whatever else is out there. They bind up the collagen on top of the new wound for two weeks. This time gives her skin cells a platform and a structure and a vehicle to grow into. Promotes the growth of her own skin over the burn area.

Two weeks later, or April 9th, they put her under again and take a thinner graft than they would have taken if she had gone for the other option and then they staple that graft on and they wait five days and see she how she is.

Five days after that, barring any strangeness, she's home.

The deal is this:

The scar is going to be around a major joint, her shoulder. When you think of your shoulder, you don't usually think of the bottom part of it, your underarm, but that's still your shoulder joint and that's where some of her particularly bad burns are. She has third degree burns on the skin on the bottom of her shoulder joint, and that's a major joint. If they do it the traditional way, she's looking at the chance of eventual compromise of functionality with that joint.

A scar, by definition, is a patch of essentially dead skin that becomes hard and thick and will contract and draw in to itself over time. You don't want that kind of patch over a joint. The Integra deal is designed to create a lighter, thinner and more flexible scar.

So we're all Integra People here at the Museum.

Only big downside to the plan is that she's going to be Inside for the next three weeks. She was climbing the walls last night, pacing the hallways, beginning to freak. She's already been in there for a week.

A week without waking up alone in your own bed. A week with strangers, kind ones, but still strangers, bringing you bad food and taking your temperature every four hours. A week of fluorescent lights, tiled floors, distant and constant noises.

No way to live.

They granted the Unthinkable yesterday. The nurses saw her going crazy and said,

"Hey. The burn is dressed and bandaged and safe. You're not an idiot. Put on a coat and some shoes, walk down the hall to the elevator, hit the button for the first floor and go out and walk around. It's a beautiful day."

We were at Famiglia Pizza twenty minutes later, corner of 71st and 1st, eating a slice of pizza. She walked into a Bolton's and looked at hats.

I was out in the New York spring afternoon with my wife, just walking around.

Now I know what Christians mean when they sing about Heaven.

So let's focus tomorrow, compadres. Dr. Bessey and Dr. Joseph and the Nursing Staff and Nancy are ready to do their parts. It's a team effort. Let's not let them down.

More when I know more, but today was a good day.

dr. bessey weighs in

Talked with Dr. Palmer Bessey yesterday. He's the man who will do Nancy's surgery, still scheduled for sometime tomorrow. Hospital schedules are, how you say, "dynamic" so you're never really going into surgery until they're actually wheeling you down the corridor, but we should get a better indication today about exactly when they think it will happen.

Bessey was great. Calm, quiet, ready to sit there at the foot of Nan's bed until we were done questioning him. Sweet man in a bow tie.

Some emotionally disturbing news that doesn't change a thing is that the burns are third-degree not deep second degree, as we were told last Wednesday. Doesn't change the burns, just our understanding of them.

Weird, the power of words, or in this case, numbers. I've been walking around repeating to myself, "Second degree, at least its only second degree, second degree..." like some autistic mantra.

Well, no. Now the chant is "Third degree, at least its only third degree, third degree..."

Burns go up to six, god help us all. Amy and Sanjay prepared the Book for me last night, some fun bedtime reading, let me tell you.

We've got some options tomorrow, so we're going to ask a lot of questions today and see what we think. Turns out there are two ways of doing it. Both work and they do both regularly up at New York Presbyterian, so it's pretty much up to us.

Keep the Good Thoughts coming. You can really feel them up in the hospital room, sometimes it just gets calm and quiet and we can just sit there, knowing we're not alone and that whatever happens next is going to happen and worrying about it is a waste of energy. Like the way water gets quiet and calm right at the lip of a waterfall.

It knows its about to go for a hell of a ride and it just gathers itself for the drop.

I'm sitting here in an actual wooden barrel, just to nail that metaphor home. Hard to type, but I believe in complete metaphor commitment.

Splintery, too.

More when I know more.

Monday, March 24, 2008

monday update

Still no word on if or when they'll do the graft. Walsh is rolling through it up on the eighth floor Burn Unit, marking off the days on the calendar on the wall like she's doing time, which she is.

Thank god for Percocet and her big brother Morphine.

The cruel thing about this particular dance is that the more she heals the more she hurts. And she's healing. Those tiny little skin cells are being born like crack babies, already damaged and screaming. But they have to keep coming.

What a horrible fucking thing.

The nursing staff are all amazing up there. Always humbles me when I watch people who've decided to spend their lives and make their money by helping people in pain. We've been under the kind care of Kathleen, Joy, Sarah Jane, Nelson and the implacable Zen. There's a Polish guy named Zen, walks around unsmiling, muttering to himself, whacking people in the face with a frying pan. Well, no frying pan, but he does mutter.

Other things have been going on as well, of course, like the five year anniversary of the Most Incomprehensibly Stupid and Damaging Thing This Country Has Ever Done, which is saying a lot.

We've been around for awhile, after all.

I keep thinking about how it would be different if Shame and Honor were still useful and effective societal tools. In earlier, more civilized times, when a public official did something so enormously foolish and then worse, bragged about it and kept insisting, against all evidence, that it was the right thing to have done, he or she would have been met by jeering and ruthless mocking whenever he or she stepped into the public view.

The idiot would have been shamed.

Nowadays, a guy says something to Cheney in Colorado and gets arrested. To paraphrase Ed Koch, "How we doing?"

I'm off to the hospital. Keep the good thoughts coming. No flowers or fruit and please no stuffed animals. She's not eight years old and where are we going to put a teddy bear in a New York one-bedroom?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

nancy walsh was on fire


Tuesday night, around 11:30, after a beautiful evening at home with Sxip and Jim Shirey, Nan stood up and her sari billowed towards the table and the hem caught the flame of a candle on the coffee table and the dress burst into flames like tissue paper. She dropped and rolled, smartly, and Jim was the cool head, batting her out, but the dress kept burning. We got her into the cold shower and the EMTs arrived and the ambulance ride and all the rest of it and now she's up at New York Presbyterian with second-degree burns on her upper left torso.

They'll decide when or whether to graft in the next few days. She's getting morphine whenever she wants it and, as most of you know, she's stronger than most of us, but it hurts just like you think it does. It's your skin and it's burning, like paper, like when you light a match wrong and it burns your finger. Only times about seven hundred.

She's all right and she's going to be all right. She's in the Burn Unit where they send New York City firefighters when they burn, so they are the absolute best.You can feel their confidence and expertise just walking around up there.

Anyway, we'll know more about what's next in the next few days. Right now I'm up at the hospital all day sitting next to her. She's in pain, but smiling and joking and all of the nurses are already in love with her, so she's Herself.

Here's where you come in.

If you believe in Anything Powerful, pray to that Thing and ask It to send Good Stuff to Nancy, especially around the inside of her left arm, down to the elbow. Her left ribcage could also use some Love. If you don't believe in a goddamned thing, think about her tonight and tomorrow as well. Both work.

I'll let you know more when I know more. Everything's on hold for awhile now.

Take care of yourself and fucking well watch those open flames.

And ladies, ditch the saris. A nurse told me last night you'd be amazed how many Indian women they deal with up there. Peasant skirts, too.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

family emergency

Everyone's fine, but I may not be posting for awhile as I'll be hanging around a hospital room for the next few days.

Scary incident involving an open flame, but again, everyone's fine.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

benito comes of age

Ben Schneider turned 40 last night out in Red Hook.

Benny doped into town from Chicago-ways back in 1998 or so, coming out of Theater Oobleck, Neo-Futurists and a bunch of other Illinois tribes. Met him at the Theatorium (R.I.P.) doing The Complete Lost Works of Samuel Beckett... and knew I was watching a genius at work. Ben toured the world with the beautiful and talented David Calvitto in the 2002 version of C.J. Hopkins' Horse Country, baffling and annoying dozens of people in theaters large and small.

I cast him for one reason, and I told him so I can tell you.

It's not that he's subtle, or brilliant or good-looking. It's not his years of training or his beautiful voice. It's that Ben, onstage, refuses to die. Ben Schneider is a born performer and he'll stand out there all night long, in front of silence, hostility or complete indifference, and he'll find a way to make it work.

He will not die. And that's the only thing that a performer needs. All the rest is funny voices and art.

Heard from a realtor that there are at least three bids in on the Liberty. One is a restaurant and they're at a fairly advanced stage in negotiation, so the realtor says, "You have a lot of uproad ahead of you."

Let's go up that road, friends.

Ann and Susan split the Big Prize by seeing through my hokum and knowing that there ain't now nor never been a Las Vegas, Mississippi. I don't think a Spanish-speaking human has stayed a full night in Mississippi since Ponce De Leon, so they sure as hell never hung around long enough to name a town.

Susan and Ann share a 50% off coupon for any family-sized order from Petey's Rib and Cold Soda Shack, located in downtown Alligator.

The coupon expired in 1987, but Petey's a reasonable man.

Monday, March 17, 2008

help wanted

Still a few folks short for the 13 Hallucinations of Julio Rivera reading at NYTW this Thursday. Found a great Julio, kid named Carlo Alban, thanks to the good folks at Labyrinth. Need some voices. Two high baritones, I'm told, but I'd settle for sober baritones at this point.

Thank you very much, I'll be here all week. Try the veal.

Typing this from Mary and Ambrose's compound out in the Sovereign Republic of Remsenberg. Remsenberg is not Speonk, I am assured by all here in Speonk, but it doesn't show up on any maps and the signs are scarce. One of those hidden towns of Long Island, shimmering in the Atlantic light.

And Ambrose, my godfather and spiritual guide, (I use the term "godfather" in the Roman Catholic sense, meaning I'm part of his Jersey crew, in charge of sanitation and gambling) has once again shown me the light. I'm babbling about Eels and Eelwax Jesus and he puts me down and puts on the North Mississippi All-Stars and leads me to understand that the Mississippi Boll Weevil Ain't Got No Natural Home, Lordy.


The boys can play.

Liberty Theater update on its way, a lot of good things moving there. Nancy and I will be back in Rat City this afternoon and get back to the biz.

Monday Morning Music Quiz, in honor of the Mississippi All-Stars:

Which of the following fine principalities is not an actual place in the great state of Mississippi?

1. Hot Coffee, Mississippi

2. Alligator, Mississippi

3. Las Vegas, Mississippi

4. Midnight, Mississippi

I've been to two of the towns above and am always in one, in my mind.

Friday, March 14, 2008

good people, the Friday sermon

Just thinking back on the week and realizing what a lucky little bastard I am.

Good people crowd my days and keep me up all night, telling me the same stories over and over. God bless them and their crooked little hearts.

Had a hilarious breakfast at the Tick Tock Diner up on 34th Street a few days ago with Teresa Eyring, the new jefe over at Theater Communications Group. Eyring like earring, only it's an eye-ring.

How cool would it be if she actually had an eye-ring?

How painful would it be to have an eye-ring?

Scott Morfee and Tom Wirtshafter just gave me all the time they can spare over at Barrow Street Theater to rehearse The Event with Matt. Man, just to be able to sit in a quiet theater and be thinking about a show without any production stress.

It's like being in an empty church on a Wednesday morning, nothing there but you and everything that matters.

Nancy and I had a sandwich and some tea with Emily Fishbaine yesterday over at Mazi's. Em is cooking up an idea about funerals, she's been to more of them this year than I have and that's saying all too much, folks. Sitting there with her and we're telling stories about Jane's funeral and Peggy's funeral and my grandmother's funeral and my eyes keep going wet.

And then I just look across the table at this bright, strong, funny young person and I kind of know that the next generation of theater artists in this town are going to be all right.

I talk to Eric Sanders and I know that they're going to be a lot better than all right, they're all going to get fucking arrested and jailed for their Art Crimes and I can only hope that I'm already in the Big House waiting for them, sweeping the stage.

Had breakfast yesterday morning with Norman Marshall, father of us all. He's telling me stories about performing at Cafe Cino back in the 60s and they're the same stories I can tell about Nada, I mean, the same stories, and I know that we've lived through some history ourselves, we're living it every day.

Yesterday I looked at Studio Dante with Abby Marcus and Leonard Jacobs and some Labyrinth Theater people. Deeply weird space, but again, I'm just listening to Abby and Leonard talk to each other (they're both LIT Steering Committee members) and I'm thinking, damn.

Good people abound.

Look around you today.

Sure, there are a lot of sharks cutting through the waters out there.

Way too many zombies and clones stomping about for my tastes.

And some stone evil motherfuckers, of course, let's not get all St. Francis on the shit, but look closer, not harder, but closer to yourself.

See? Good people standing next to you and ready to take your call and tell you a bad joke and help you carry that weight.

May all the gods dance with all the good people and may all the evil motherfuckers have to sit on metal folding chairs and watch. For a long, long time.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

give me Liberty or...what's the soup today?

Spitzer's gone and I'm told that the first legally blind black Governor in our nation's history is stepping in.

Governor Stevie Wonder.

Didn't even know Stevie was in politics. No, that's cheap.

Governor Ray Charles. How you doing, Governor? No, wait.

Governor David A. Paterson. Ladies and gentlemen, Gov. Paterson.

The microphone is actually over here, sir. Watch out for that...ah... careful with that pitcher of water, OH! No, it's all right, it's just water. Could you stop waving that cane around, sir? WHACKKK! Ow. Fuck.

This is not going to be smooth.

And, sure. I'm going straight to hell, anyway. May as well have some laughs on the way down.

So, many interesting developments on the Liberty Theater front. Talked to the architect who has been on the project for years, pitched him what I was sure was a hare-brained scheme, turns out I'm some kind of architectural idiot savant. He didn't say that, but I could tell he was thinking it. I had a cool idea that preserves everything but allows you to build like a bastard. We're going to meet and talk next week.

Also spoke with Andrew Berman from the Greenwich Village Historical Preservation Society. Spoke to him on one of those old phones where you hold the one part up to your ear and you speak into the other part. The operator kept listening in and I think it was a party line, but...

Man, that was going nowhere.

Anyway, Andrew knows all the legal stuff.

If anyone wants to get on board with this, email me at with Liberty in the subject and I'll put together a group and we'll save the thing and build something amazing right there in the middle of the Beast.

I'm off, thanks to the generosity of Scott Morfee and the good people of Barrow Street Theater, to rehearse The Event over at BST.

Watch out for that new governor.

Don't think he sees that good.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

wednesday round up

The Big O rolls through Mississippi, adding another X to his column. Senator Clinton thinks he'd make a fine VP, even though she thinks he's not ready to be President which is the only real qualification for being VP. Hmm...

The Fed offers banks a 200 billion dollar loan. Stocks soar.

Why not a 200 trillion dollar loan, boys? Or 200 kajillion? If you're just making it up and printing fake money, why not get creative?

Nancy and I dined at The Orchard last night thanks to the kindness and generosity of Jon Stancato and the Stolen Chairs and can I just say Holy Kamoley?

I mean, Great God on a Flatbread?

If you're in town and you're feeling kind of fancy and you've got some money to blow, get yourself and your honey down to Orchard Street. Seriously good eating and it's elegant as hell. Makes you feel rich right up to the moment they hand you the bill and you realize how poor you actually are.

Need to organize a Liberty Theater Task Force. Read the post a few posts back if you're not up to speed on this. Best way to move forward is probably getting everyone's email and making a group so we can stay in touch about developments. We should set a time to meet as well, I suppose. Anyone interested, let me know and I'll organize it.

And if anyone can recommend an exceptionally talented, young (mid-twenties) Hispanic actor for a reading of Stephen Culp's The 13 Hallucinations of Julio Rivera at New York Theater Workshop next Thursday, I'd be much obliged.

Finished Beatrice Otto's masterful Fools are Everywhere, a study of court jesters throughout history, and how cool is this?

She puts her email address in the acknowledgements.

So I email her and thank her for the great read and tell her how I'm using it for my new play. She writes back, asking to read the play. So I send her the fourth draft of Captain Overlord's Folly.

The modern world, kids. It's an instant motherfucker, sometimes.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

elliot phones home

And finds out that there's no one there.

Not going to trash the governor, poor bastard has a lifetime ahead of him to get through. Always have to watch the righteous ones, no matter which side they're on.

Of course, prostitution shouldn't be a crime, but that's eleven other posts.

So long, Spitz, and good luck on the Rotarian circuit.

Lots of great ideas and comments on the Liberty Theater post below, check it out and jump in if you haven't yet.

Answer to the Monday Morning Music Quiz is #4. Ms. Fields did not, in fact, write Parliament's acid-fried Afro-terrestrial invasion anthem Give up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker). She is rumored, however, to have provided some lyrics for their 1974 classic Up for the Down Stroke.

The 70s were a strange time, lots of cross-currents and random influences you wouldn't get these days.

So Rose wins a Quiz and gets a new hat. Or something equivalent to a new hat. Maybe a new shoe or something.

I'll have to see what's lying around in the Museum's Lost and Found Bin and get back to you on that, Rosie.

Monday, March 10, 2008

the braggart points to himself

Come on.

"... as Pinter is to pauses."?

This guy can write and clearly he has exceptionally fine taste when it comes to the theater.

MMMQ - beginner's level

Which song did noted Broadway lyricist Dorothy Fields not write?

1. I Can't Give You Anything But Love
2. I'm in the Mood for Love
3. The Way You Look Tonight
4. Give up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)

Hint: Answer is below in the previous post.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

we can't let this happen without a fight

I'm breaking my "week-ends off" clause here, because some things are too important.

This has nothing to do with politics, my career or Mike Daisey.

I went in and saw the old Liberty Theater Thursday night with Nancy and John Pinckard. Built in 1904, it was a legitimate theater up until the 30s, when it became a movie palace and then of course in the bad old Midnight Cowboy days of New York it became a porn cinema. They tore down the incredibly beautiful facade in 1996 and the lobby is now gone as well.

But the theater is still there.

I want everyone to remember that it was built as a theater. It became a movie house and served as one for most of its life. But it was built as a theater.

It was ours before it was theirs and it was never Applebees' or McDonalds' or Madame Tussaud's, is my point.

Current plans for the place, according to the newspapers, is for Ecko Unlimited to come in and create a massive retail/entertainment thing. Just what the city needs. Ecko is self-described as "the high-flying hip-hop clothing and lifestyle company". Now, I'm on record saying that everyone has a right to make money in this country and I'm no foe of progress, but sometimes you have to say:

Build your shit somewhere else. This little plot of land belongs to us and it is important to us. Sorry. Good luck with the clothing and the lifestyle. Now move on, please.

Let me give you some names, and remember that I stood on the stage. Stood there and breathed in the ghosts.

It was built in 1904 so it's a reasonable bet that the inaugural performance in the building was a little show called Little Johnny Jones. Never heard of it? Me neither, but it starred a guy you might know, George M. Cohan. The show featured a song you might have heard once or twice, "Give My Regards to Broadway".

So, the first time people paid to hear someone sing that song, the first time that song was sung professionally, it was in that house.

I think they built a little statue of Cohan, somewhere around, no, I'm sorry, in the heart of Times Square. And they want to put another store where he first sang that song.

In 1924, 20 years later, a couple of guys named George and Ira Gershwin opened their latest, Lady Be Good. I wasn't familiar with that one either, but it starred a young man named Fred Astaire.

Him, I know. He sang, danced and worked on that stage in that house.

The critics must not have been that good to Lady Be Good, because the following year, 1925, the Gershwin boys opened up another show in that house, something called Tip-Toes. Jeanette Macdonald showed up for work every night for Tip-Toes, put on her makeup and stared into her mirror down in the dressing rooms, climbed up the stairs every night at 7:50 and went out and worked on that stage.

But I guess it's all the same that 83 years later that same house is going to be a place where you can buy over-sized pants and wool caps. Because where else are you going to be able get those things in Manhattan?

1928 is my favorite year in the history of the house. There was a show called Blackbirds of 1928. Back then you didn't have to resort to gimmick casting and do Tennessee Williams to justify hiring a whole lot of African-Americans to work on Broadway. You just called it and sold it as "a black show" and people came. Weird how it seems we sometimes move sideways in this country and only accidentally get ahead.

But that's another post.

Blackbirds of 1928 featured Bill Robinson. Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. Mr. Bojangles.

Bill Fucking Robinson.

Bill Robinson danced on that stage. The American dancer that ranks up there or above Nureyev and certainly Astaire, Gene Kelly and Savion Glover. Ask them and they'll all tell you so themselves.

Bill Robinson worked in that house.

This is holy ground, folks.

Blackbirds of 1928 was also the Broadway debut of a young lyricist named Dorothy Fields. You may not know her name. You know her songs.

The Way You Look Tonight.

I Can't Give You Anything But Love.


I'm in the Mood for Love.

Yeah. Those songs.

Dorothy was the daughter of Lew Fields, for those hardcore theater buffs. Lew was half of Webber and Fields, the prototyptical double-act of American entertainment. In their day, (and their day lasted many, many years), they were bigger than anyone you want to name. Much bigger than Laurel and Hardy. They are reputed to have invented

"That was no lady, that was my wife."


So, probably, one of the main reasons Dorothy was debuting on Broadway that night back in 1928 is because she had learned the business from a young age by sitting on Papa's knee.

Now those are the big names that played that house and those aren't all of them, of course. But think about everyone else.

The house opened in 1904 and stayed open into the 30s. So that's at least 26, 27 years if not more. Twenty-six years. Think of the ensemble players, the musicians, the choreographers, all of those people walking in and out of those doors, playing Broadway, goddamnit, writing home to their loved ones out in the Dust Bowl or back in California or down home on the farm.

Think of the dressers and the makeup artists and the ticket-takers and the ushers. Twenty-six years.

All of those ghosts are still in that house, friends. I met them on Thursday. They seem a little lonely, with the place being boarded up for the last 12 years or so, with only Fiona Shaw and Deborah Warner coming in for a few months to do The Wasteland.

That house is no wasteland.

It's a consecrated graveyard. It's an historic national landmark for our craft. And most of all, it's a theater.

It's a theater, sitting there, kind of dirty and silent, a little apologetic and old-fashioned, like a great man grown old and poor and forgotten by his friends and family.

Sitting there in the middle of Times Square, unsure what to make of the Applebees and the McDonalds that have elbowed him out of the way.

Some things are right and some things are wrong. It's almost never that clear, but sometimes it is.

That house belongs to us. It doesn't belong to Ecko Unlimited or Howard Johnson's or Ben and Jerry's or any other corporation or group of businessmen, honorable or otherwise.

It belongs to the American theater. It belongs to the people of New York City. It belongs to the memory of George M. Cohan and Dorothy Fields and Fred Astaire and Jeanette MacDonald and Bill Robinson.

Legally, it belongs to Forrest City Realty, who leased it from the State of New York for the next 89 years or so, along with the rest of the block. But they seem to be having some trouble moving it and what with the Recession rolling in, the Big Money might go underground for a little while, leaving the rest of us to weather it out.

We need to figure this one out and get that house back. We can figure out what we're going to do with it once we get it, but we first need to get it back.

It's ours. It was handed down to us by our ancestors, by our grandparents and great-grandparents, by George and Dorothy and Fred and Bill and all the rest of them.

Some things are right and some things are wrong and this one's wrong.

Friday, March 07, 2008

finally Friday

Ah, Friday.

The weeks have been racing this year and the last few days have been masquerading as Spring here in Rat City. I don't mind the winter, but I much prefer not having to carry around a hat, gloves, scarf and all the other stuff. That's mostly because (as my mother once and my wife now will tell you) I lose an average of two hats, four gloves and numberless scarves every year.

In my defense I have always said that certain objects, I believe, are promiscuous and trying to make them your own is just foolish.

Umbrellas and lighters, for example. They're not ever going to be yours alone, so just let them wend their way through the world.

Hats, scarves and gloves, obviously.

Sunglasses, too.

Heading out of town in about an hour, home tonight. Love the road with Walsh at the wheel.

Saw the old Liberty Theater last night. Wow. A sacred place in the middle of the new Times Square. An old Broadway theater quietly waiting, tucked away behind Applebees and McDonalds. Can't think of a more exact physical metaphor for the plight of Times Square, our city or the country, for that matter.

We're off. Don't forget to save your daylight on Sunday.

Spring may actually be here.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

he ain't dead

Tom Keegan got us 5.00 tickets to see the Mark Twain play Is He Dead? up at the Lyceum Theater yesterday. That decimal point is in the right place, folks, a single fin for two hours plus of Broadway entertainment.

It's closing this weekend and that's a shame. Go up there, check your critical, downtown art-head at the door and revel in the old-school hijinks and shenanigans. So much fun to watch a bunch of pros scrambling all over the stage, pulling pratfalls and delivering punchlines. We laughed for two hours. When's the last time that happened to you at the theater?

The man himself, Norbert Leo Butz, was a little off, but it was a Wednesday matinee and they're closing this weekend, so he may have had other things on his mind. And he was fucking great, don't get me wrong, an animal of the stage, he just didn't hit every joke. Norbert went to the same high school in St. Louis I ended up graduating from and I'm pretty sure we stood on the same boards once, doing Pippin or something. He was a freshman in my senior year and all of the Butzes were in the theater. There was a long line of them, in my memory, all these good-looking blonde Midwestern boys, Norbert being the baby. The kid's come a long way from south St. Louis, I tell you.

In other news, our partner Nate convinced me to join Facebook yesterday.

Holy hell.

I believe I've found the insecure fourteen year old girl that's always been inside of me just waiting to bust out. I'm going to be up all night obsessing over how many friends I have and whether or not Greg is going to invite me to the Big Dance, I just know it.

Seriously, its a pretty addictive place to hang out.

Busy day today, meeting with Creative Capital to talk about our Touring Worshop, working on The Event with Matt, meeting up with the Wordmonger folk to talk about Edinburgh and seeing the old Liberty Theater on Broadway at 6:00.

And spending nine hours mooning about on Facebook, of course.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

clash of the Senators, round ten

Would someone hire a fat lady and ask that woman to sing, please?

While Mr. O. and Ms. C. wrestle, Johnny Mac the Arizona Wildcat has won it all. Reverend Huckabee, (that name still kills me... Jefferson, Madison, Grant, Wilson, Carter, Clinton, Huckabee? Some things are just never going to happen.) anyway, the Reverend gave a long, weird, boring concession speech, opening, inexplicably, with a George Brett anecdote.

You may be thinking George Brett?

That's what the assembled crowd was thinking, judging from their uncomfortable televised silence. He told some strange story about Brett wanting to end his career with an easy out instead of a grand slam.


And all the coiffed melonheads on TV were arguing and shouting about Johnny's plan to go to the White House tomorrow and get annointed by the Idiot. Why? Why, for god's sake? they were all shouting.

I'll tell you why, it's the Jerry Lee Lewis Defense.

When you're caught red-handed fucking your fifteen year old cousin, what do you do?

You marry her.

You're already dead to those who don't like you, so you may as well consolidate the family and show those sitting on the fence that you're a stand-up guy. Marry her, put a big ring on her finger and then get back out on the road.

Democratic field is still all tied up and tangled, but I'm hearing a lot of people saying that mathematically Clinton has already lost, regardless of what strategies, outcomes or wild unsubstantiated shit comes out on either side. The people saying this sound smart and correct, but smart and correct don't match up to determined and dirty in this Great Republic, do they Tonto?

On the Art Side, I'm reading some great plays these days. Something's in the water or I'm just finally talking to the right people. Just finished something called We Have Brought Nightmare by John Christian Plummer. Man alive. It's the foul-mouthed, no-fucking around Dutch back in pre-Colonial America, beautiful, scary language, very elemental stuff going on. Kind of like There Will Be Blood set in 1630, written very smartly for the stage.

Or something.

Anyone know what those 1191 signs at the McCain headquarters are all about? Some Masonic Code? Some subliminal 9/11 message?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

my fellow saltimbanques

Saw a reading of Eric Sanders' It's a Dry Heat last night at Playwrights Horizon, put together by a group called Studio 42, directed by Isaac Butler, he of Parabasis. Excellent group of young actors making it sing and always good when you see that a blogger you admire has chops in the real world as well.

I'm a stone fan of Eric's writing, this one is still a draft or two away, I think, but I don't know anyone his age who's capturing his generation's particular sadness and weirdness and humor. This one ends with one of the great modern arias where our heroine spews out an ending scenario in a desperate attempt to push her lover away while clinging on to him, a beautiful Siamese twin wrestling match for her own soul.

Well done all around.

Forgot to mention this yesterday, but in intellectual and other kinds of fairness, we have to acknowledge the times (and the Times) when they get it right. WTFC himself seems not only to like Passing Strange, but to get it. I'm saying "seems" only because I haven't seen the show, but all good people I know have told me its a must-see, not-to-be-missed kind of thing. Which is going to make me feel so bad when I miss it.

I just hate going to the theater. Always have. I go, but I'm a kid getting dragged to church on a Sunday morning when I could be out playing or hell, sleeping in.

Big Damn Day in the Clinton/Obama saga. I don't think it's close to being over, but what do I know?

And the answer to the Big Quiz is Small Faces, of course. That's two weeks in a row that Dancing Annie the Lampshade Queen has seen through my feeble attempts at deception. I should start a two-tiered test, one for Ann and one for Mere Mortals, except that would be far too much work for a simple Museum Director. Spooky Tooth actually was a band, Rose, so there may be a T-shirt out there waiting for you.

This week's prize, oddly enough, is a one hundred dollar gift in your name to Scrappy's Wintertime Fund, in which we raise money to buy whiskey, firewood and prophylactics for the indigent, frozen friends and family of Mr. Jack.

So you're even, Ann.

Unless you want to go Double or Nothing.

Monday, March 03, 2008

family entertainment

So Zach out in Des Moines is hustling some good Iowans on our behalf. We're days away from signing a contract to take the Scrappy Jack East Village Traveling All-Stars out on the road. It's the U. S. touring wing of Clancy Productions, Inc. and though mostly mythical right now, is soon to be a very impressive force in the future Great Culture World War II, in which the Good Guys win.

I was going through the old roster of the SJEVTAS and noticed that we're a bit light on family acts. Not acts made up of families, a la the Aristocrats, but stuff that's appropriate for the little ones. So if you're a juggler or you know one, give us a call. Face-painters need not apply, they kind of creep me out, to be honest.

Saw Senator Clinton's "It's 3 AM and your children are asleep..." ad over the weekend.

Come on.

Here's the morning tip:

When it's 3 AM and the phone rings at the White House the President doesn't answer the phone. I know this from The West Wing, for Christ's sake. Some Navy guy on duty down in the basement answers it, he calls about eleven superiors, they call the brass above them and maybe it ends up on Leo's desk in the morning. And only then does Martin Sheen even hear about it.

Come on.

Don Hall's Off Loop Freedom Charter over on is exactly what I'm talking about with the LIT real estate proposal. Now if he'd just get his angry ass over to A Red Orchid and see my play. Which has extended. But enough about me.

If we're going to change anything and make the change last, we need to be getting money and property for the arts. Money and property. Money and property. Just as though we're living in a capitalistic society. Money and property. Say it with me.

Our Monday Morning Music Quiz is reaching back beyond New Wave and punk and all the way to the Golden Era of 60s English Rock and Roll, my children.

The extraordinary sound of Humble Pie, Peter Frampton's first band, was greatly added to by Steve Marriot, himself an original member of:

1. Cream
2. Spooky Tooth
3. Grateful Dead
4. Small Faces

As always, no Wikepediaing, copying off your neighbors or horseplay of any kind.