Wednesday, April 30, 2008

the cogs are whirring

The old brain has been buzzing non-stop since yesterday afternoon when we wrapped up the Rowan workshop and fled back north to Rat City.

Beautiful day for a drive, heading up the turnpike with Wil crashed in the backseat, Pink Floyd's concert version of The Wall pumping through the speakers, rest-stops rolling by.

The three of us, (Wil, me and the Kid) were all physically exhausted even though we didn't do much more than watch. We talked about it a little, realizing that because the territory we were exploring was so slippery (the master/slave relationship, physical bondage, etc.) we had to be hyper-aware that it stayed focused on the zone of theater and didn't slip into psychological mind-game land.

We were working with young people and they were really digging it, it was wild stuff, but it was bringing up a lot of emotions and thought-patterns that in less careful hands could be used to screw with people's minds.

I kept thinking about that sociological or psychological experiment that a grad school ran back in the fifties where they randomly chose people to be guards and prisoners and after about thirty hours they had to end the exercise because of the emotional abuse that began and accelerated. "Guards" behaved outrageously, but also "prisoners" reverted to an infantile state.

Within, like, 30 hours.

Crazy how fragile our mind-sets and value-systems are when we get shaken out of our regular pattern.

The whole brutality thing is really just one part of Captain Overlord's Folly, but it's a thing that underlies the piece and something I want to get right.

But I tell you, right now I want to focus on spit-takes or pratfalls or something funny and stupid.

Can't do heavy lifting every day or you wind up with a brain hernia.

Or something.

"Brain hernia"?

Maybe a very bad garage metal band that never recorded a thing?

"We are Brain Hernia! Goodnight, Glassboro!"

All right. Back to work.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Brutality 101


An extraordinary day yesterday with the students of Rowan (or the riders of Rohan, as I like to call them).

Ran a stereotype or stock character workshop in the morning and then got into the brutality stuff in the afternoon and evening. They were some game little bastards, let me tell you. Nancy and Melissa and Wil and Melanie Stewart and I were the grown-ups in the room, but we were just keeping up.

If you watched the exercises with the sound off, without any context, you would have thought it was some kind of very formal sex game initiation and that level was certainly there, impossible for it not to be, I guess, but the students really went deep, without much prompting, and it was just an amazingly emotional and powerful day. Learned a lot for the second act of Overlord.

Going back this morning for a wrap-up. Campus security is probably waiting in Visitors Parking for us.

Ah well. One must suffer for one's art, right?

Heading back home this afternoon, much to do as always.

And yes, damn, Ann, Living Things it is.

Rose, you're cute when you guess and you got a cheesesteak out of the deal, so don't give up now.

And Matt and Tim, I'm a Knicks fan, so ranking on the Eagles is just my way of coping.

Monday, April 28, 2008

philadelphia freedom

I write to you from the semi-swank lobby of the Four Points, a Sheraton outfit out by the Philadelphia airport. Drove down here yesterday with Spitfire at the wheel, young Wil Petre in the backseat. Urcioli had to beg off at the last minute, something to do with his trick knee. Melissa Lynch joins us out at Rowan University this morning and we begin the descent into the brutality/violence workshop we've designed to start thinking about the second act of Captain Overlord's Folly.

Either we'll learn a lot and get some art done, or we'll all be arrested for corrupting minors.

Either way, should be an interesting day.

Fun to be back here in America proper and a beautiful drive down yesterday.

Great work done on the League of Independent Theater front on Saturday, thanks all. We're close to an official launch of the organization, still some details and things to think through.

Amazing meeting with an architect on Friday about the Liberty Theater and how to preserve the history while turning it back into a very active theater complex.

Yes, that's still in play, folks.

Many balls stayed in the air while Nancy was Inside, surprisingly few of them dropped.

MMMQ is sponsored by my brother-in-law Tom this morning. About three months ago he loaded up my Ipod with all sorts of good stuff, like sixty or seventy albums, no lie. I haven't listened to half of them yet, but I tried one out on Friday and I've got a brand new obsession.

So, whose album Ahead of the Lions blew my tiny little mind on Friday, especially the anthem Bom Bom Bom? Was it:

1. Sentient Beings

2. Living Things

3. Live Nude Girls

4. Barenaked Ladies?

Cheesesteaks for the winner, Philadelphia Eagle's season tickets for those who fail.

Friday, April 25, 2008

back to school

We're heading down to Rowan University, my old professorial stomping grounds, on Sunday for a two-day violence/brutality workshop with some of the Captain Overlord's Folly crew, notably Paul Urcioli, Wil Petre and Melissa Lynch. Paul's the Clown King and Wil and Melissa are the young lovers, Tom and Sue. Nancy plays Heavy Clown, so we can do some bouffon work as well as begin to explore some of the ugliness of the second act.

Here's the Artaud quote I'm bringing in to the room on Monday morning as a way of focusing the workshop, (emphasis mine):

Is our goal clear now? It is this: with every production we are playing a very serious game and the significance of our efforts lies in the very nature of this seriousness. We are not appealing to the audience’s minds or senses, but to their whole existence. To theirs and ours. We stake our lives on the show that is taking place on stage. If we did not have a very deep, distinct feeling that part of our most intimate life was committed to that show, we would not think it necessary to pursue this experiment further. Audiences coming to our theater know they are present at a real operation involving not only the mind but also the very senses and flesh. From then on they will go to the theater as they would to a surgeon or a dentist, in the same frame of mind, knowing, of course, that they will not die, but that all the same this is a serious business, and that they will not come out unscathed. If we were not convinced that we were going to affect them as deeply as possible, we would think ourselves unworthy of this, our highest task. They must be thoroughly convinced we can make them cry out.


Not too much to add to that.

May not be posting until we're back unless there's some kind of wi-fi set-up at the hotel.

And if you want to hear a bunch of spurious lies about my younger self, just read the Comments to the Clinton Beats Spread post down below.

Mendacity, I tell you.

I was a quiet, studious, pious youth as my sainted mother will attest.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

a very good Bad Christmas

Rocked the house last night.

There's still some work to be done (Bill), but all in all I think we have a show. The plan is to produce it here in New York around the holidays.

Scott Morfee has another plan, but Scott, of course, is a notorious madman and must be watched closely at all times.

Saw some people last night that I hadn't seen with mine own eyes for far too long, although they're always in my mind. Laura Zambrano showed up with Barnes and Noble swag a-plenty, intended for Nancy, I think, but we'll see.

And Dan Jagendorf, original designer of the Americana Absurdum pulley-clip light system, shows up and in the bar afterwards we came to the unsettling realization that we've known each other for 26 years.

26 years.

That's long enough to have a kid and for the kid to have a kid, as Dykstra unhelpfully pointed out.

Dan pointed out that we always used contraception, so...

And the big news yesterday was that except for the Captain Overlord's Folly presentation August 20 and 21, we won't be bringing anything to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this summer. Lots of reasons, but end of the day, it's the right decision. Gives us a summer here in America for a change.

Doors close, windows open.

And we keep jumping through those windows, seeing if this time we can fly.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

clinton beats spread, begs for money

And the beat goes on.

The democratic process grinds through Pennsylvania like the Union Army of old, chewing up the soil and pitting father against son, grandma against brother-in-law, glory, glory hallelujah.

The war-camps have moved on to the moonlit cornfields of Indiana, land of Mellencamp and Vonnegut, and the generals stare into the campfires, divining, drinking heavily and sharpening their spears while common soldiers on both sides trade taunts and rhythmic insults across tomorrow's Field of Honor.

The camp-followers, the pundits and press and experts and comics shake their heads and wail in public and then retire to their tents to whoop it up and congratulate each other on their extreme good fortune. Another battle means another day's wage for these ghoulish, short-sighted coiffed melon-heads. Wolf Blitzer and Chris Matthews slap hands and backs and Anderson Cooper smiles enigmatically across the room, sipping an Absolut and grapefruit juice, sitting alone as usual.

And where are we, where are the People on this Night after the Day before the next Big Night of polls and attacks and feints and coy rejoinders?

Have we, almost without noticing, taken a collective step back from the fray? Have our positions hardened a bit, where once we instinctively grasped each others hands, now is there a reluctance to reach across?

And where's Johnny Mac? He's not on the little screen, true, but that's not necessarily a bad thing for the Arizona Wildcat and his Great White Army. Johnny wears out his welcome with exposed viewing, he's like the frat brother you want to spend the weekend with, but come Wednesday afternoon you want to punch him in the mouth and tell him to shut the hell up.

Cranky people make other people cranky, it just works that way.

So, yeah. She beat the spread. Her victory speech last night was odd in that it took her about two minutes to get to the naked plea for money, dropping the website twice.

Cameras kept lingering on the boxing gloves in the crowd.


And then, in what has become a signature style for Senator Clinton, she wrapped up with a nervous, clumsy half-attempt to twist an Obama saying or refrain. She was reaching for a "Yes, we will!" call and response but the crowd had clearly not been fully briefed, responding with a disorganized "Yeahh!!", robbing her of the button and perfect landing.

Meanwhile, Senator O played it cool, giving a standard, if slightly energized, concession speech. When he shifts down to one of these standard speeches it's like listening to Aaron Neville sing Happy Birthday to You, the song so clearly below the talents of the singer.

Yo-Yo Ma playing Three Blind Mice.

There's been a lot of flak about O descending into the ranks of the everyday, mortal politician.

Hey, folks. Honestly. What did you think he was?


He's a really gifted politician, always has been. I'm in his camp, but I'm not drinking Kool-Aid again for any of them, and neither should you.

Bad Christmas tonight, Barrow Street.

And our good friends Stolen Chair ramp it up this week with The Accidental Patriot at CSV. Pirates and sword-fights and singing and whatnot.

Lots of the whatnot, I'm told.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

whuz goin on?

That's one of my favorite lines from the new play, Captain Overlord's Folly or the Fool's Revenge. Girl Clown enters, smiling sweetly, late in the second act, dragging a bound and gagged man she's been riding like a horse for an hour. She looks around at the chaos that has over-taken the stage and, still smiling, asks:

"Whuz goin on?"

We're heading down to Rowan on Sunday for a two-day workshop on the piece, focusing on the brutality and violence.

I tell people, when they ask, that I'd love to work on a nice, sweet thing. I'm a pretty nice guy. But when the world is going crazy and thuggery is every day gaining ground, I can't seem to help but respond with theater that is angry, dark and sometimes mean. Always funny is the goal, but if you're going to engage, then you've got to honestly look at the environment.

And it's getting dark out there, kids.

One fun thing that's not too over-the-top brutal is Bad Christmas, by Greg Kotis. We're going to produce it next year around, well, Christmas and we're doing an under-rehearsed staged reading of it tomorrow night at Barrow Street Theater. It's funny as hell and features the Kotis Family Players (Ayun Halliday, India Kotis and Milo Kotis) along with Clancy Production veterans Paul Urcioli, Bill Coelius, Ben Schneider and Spitfire McGee aka Nancy Walsh, joined by The Man Who Talks Alone, Mike Daisy, in the pivotal role of Jim-Jim the Elf. Or Jo-Jo the Elf. One of the elves, Ben plays the other one.

Very funny and a solid holiday treat, I think. You walk out smiling and knowing all about Odin. You'll never look at Santa the same.

Still working on the tag-line.

A Christmas Carol for the rest of us.

Something, I've got six months to sell it.

Tomorrow night, 7 PM, Barrow Street, free. Lasts about an hour. Come on down.

And the answer to yesterday's Quiz was, yes, Ann, King Sunny Ade and His African Beats. You win, but so does Rose for choosing Queen Fudgie on general giggly principle. That's brave. You're smarter than anyone, but Rose is brave.

Don't know why I feel it's important to acknowledge that you always win these things (except when Erez plays) and at the same time screw with you at your weekly award ceremony.

I just get mean sometimes, see?

I blame the world.

Monday, April 21, 2008

an open letter to the people of Pennsylvania

Please don't take my senator away from me.

Hillary Clinton has been the finest junior senator from the State of New York since I became a resident here in 1990. She is smart, tireless and fully committed to the issues and concerns of her constituents.

As a senator, she is able to exercise her strongest skills in the service of the Democratic Party. She has been invaluable in the overwhelmingly difficult battle of beating back the radical, neo-conservative, corporatist agenda. We as a party and a people are losing this battle, of course, but Senator Clinton and others have honorably worked, in their capacities, to halt or delay some of the most egregious assaults on our Constitution and standing in the world.

She would make a fine President. She is already a fine Senator. Of the two candidates remaining, she is the stronger Senator. I believe that for the health of the party and the success of the salvage operation that will be necessary for the next eight years, President Obama and Senator Clinton make a better team than President Clinton and Senator Obama.

Many registered Democrats are concerned with Obama's electability.

Polls shift (although he is currently polling better than her in national polls against McCain, I think), but the truth is that he his highly electable.

Our nation, though still sadly suffering from the cancer of racism, is not as racist as it was 20-30 years ago, thank God. And it is exactly the voters that the Obama campaign is bringing into the process that suffer least from the disease. The young voter is excited and energized by Obama's youth, not his color. He sounds more like this young voter than anyone out there. And that's why he can win in the fall.

A Clinton/McCain election will feel and play like the Great Culture War Part Six, like the last Star Wars movie. We'll see the same arguments, distortions and storylines from both sides. And remember, the Republicans are a lot better at fighting and winning that battle. Even with their nominee lashed to Bush's completely failed and foolish and destructive domestic and foreign policies, it will be a very close election.

I think she'll win it and I'll do everything I can to help her win it, but if we run Obama, we've changed the storyline.

Old vs. New

Cranky vs. Charisma

Grandpa vs. Cool Older Brother

Are you kidding? We can win that one.

But finally, on a personal level, don't take my Senator away. We need her here in New York.

That's it. Nancy and I love the Poconos and I can't get enough of those cheesesteaks.

And I hear York is a pretty cool town.

Get out there tomorrow, vote early, vote often.


Nancy's been home a week and we're settling back into the Routine.

God, I love the Routine.

Work all day on various art projects, always surprised and pleased when money comes in, talking to friends throughout the day, maybe a meeting uptown, wrap it up around 6:00 PM, pour a cocktail and meet on the couch, the Fat Bunny between us, to enjoy some fine televised programming.

We studiously avoid going out at night, only dragging ourselves to the Theater when profound Guilt and intense Pressure overwhelm us.

Usually enjoy it, actually, but too many years of crushing disappointment, impotent anger and just plain bad theater have warped us into the couch-dwelling cocktail monkeys we are.

On the Sunday morning talk show circuit yesterday, Clinton's new man, Geoff Garin, got his ass handed to him, repeatedly, by Obama's David Axelrod.

It got a little silly.

Garin is highly respected, I guess, but he came off like he had just arrived in Washington from his previous post as assistant principal of a high school in suburban Michigan. The man was stammering, stuttering, avoiding Russert's questions, getting trapped in Axelrod's arguments, all but just getting up and walking off the set while apologizing to the cameraman and endorsing Obama.

Not good.

Struck me yesterday that what Clinton has done by taking the race to the mat over the last two months is to turn herself into Obama's Sacrificial Bull.

We need to know, here in the USA, that our President will kill people for us. It's why Bill had to execute that retarded guy back in Arkansas before he could sit at the Desk. Arthur Miller wrote about this right before he died, great little piece in Harper's, I think.

We're casting the lead and the movie is not a comedy. We need Brando, or at least Daniel Craig. Not a heavy, per se, but a guy with blood on his hands.

So Clinton, by refusing to die, is telling Obama:

"You kill me or you lose. It's a Death Match, son."

So Obama has to, metaphoricaly, kill this nice white lady while still being the Candidate of Hope, the New Kind of Kid. Clinton's people have looked at this particular eye of the needle and calculated that ain't no camel going through nohow noways.

Smart people. Cynical as all fuck, but smart.

On a happier note, Thurman Matthieson, our good friend out in L.A., provides the inspiration for this morning's MMMQ. Thurman gave us this extraordinary collection called Simply World,4 CDs of world music.

World music. As opposed to what, exactly?

Soul music? Gospel?

They really need to come up with a better name for this stuff. Is a falafel "world food"?

But holy Christ playing a zither, this is extraordinary stuff.

Years ago, another Los Angeleno, Jamie Angel, turned me on to some of the African sound with King Sunny Ade. His album Synchro System is still something I put on when I'm writing.

King Sunny played with an amazing band. Were they:

1. King Sunny Ade and The Tembo Brothers

2. King Sunny Ade and His African Beats

3. King Sunny Ade and The Earthquake

4. King Sunny Ade and His Bride, Queen Fudgie the First

Friday, April 18, 2008

all that money

I know that for most of you, just like me and Nan, one of the biggest problems at the end of the week is what to do with all of that extra cash.

It just piles up even if you put it in bags and then you have to stack the bags in the corner of the room and you can't stack them that high or they start tipping over and sliding all around and it's just a mess.

Sure, you can try to spend it all, but invariably, come Friday, there's just more of it sitting there in the way.

It's a modern problem that doesn't get addressed enough, I feel.

One solution is to send some of it to:

The Cornell Burn Center
525 E. 68th Street, Box 137
New York City, NY

These are the people who took care of our own Spitfire McGee, nursing her back to health and relative sanity. The fund goes completely to the Unit, mostly for research and support.

I didn't write about the actual Unit much over the last month, but it's a pretty amazing place. One of the great features is that in the Wing Nan was, 8 South, they keep all of the pediatric burn patients together, so there's this band of little burnt peanuts roaming the halls, padding around in their pajamas, completely unaware that they're burn patients, just being kids. Makes all of the adults forget about their own pain for a moment.

Anyway, if you send some of that surplus money to the Burn Center and include your information, they'll send you back a letter you can use for your taxes next year.

It might put a dent in all of that damned money, anyway.

Just trying to help out.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

healing and dealing

Nan's getting stronger every day. Graft site is amazing, just watching it get smoother and pinker. This very early morning she moved from the pull-out couch in the living room to the bedroom, where I was sleeping. Woke up with the sensation of sweet Nan curled up next to me, something I haven't felt in a month.

Like it was all a bad dream.

Speaking of Bad Dreams, watched the debate last night, or the Baiting of Barack.

He doesn't handle that shit well at all. Too much of a geek when he gets asked policy questions and he's tethered to the post of the Good Not Angry Black Man routine. You can see he wants to shout, but one televised shout and he has to go stand next to Howard Dean in the corner for the rest of his life.

Here are the two responses he should be using to the Nonsense driving the news cycle:

1.Reverend Wright is not running for President. I am. If you have any problems with what Reverend Wright says, said, believes or feels, call up Reverend Wright. Let's move on, please.

2. I don't wear an American flag pin for the same reason that Irish-Americans don't wear green on St. Patrick's Day.

Because they don't have to.

They're Irish-American 365 days a year, not just on the day everyone else gets excited about it. Every single neo-con that got us into the disaster in Iraq was wearing a flag pin when they engineered this disaster. Do you feel better about their decisions and choices, knowing they were wearing a flag pin?

If the Sheriff is coming over to post a sign on your door saying you are being evicted, will you feel better if he has a flag pinned to his shirt?

This is one of the All-Time Greatest Non-Issues, people. Stop acting like morons, real problems are out there and they are not solving themselves.

I'm talking to you, George S. and you too, Charlie.

Now let's move on, please.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

back to bidness

We're all about the home care here at the Museum.

Home care is like home-schooling, with a lot more white wine thrown into the mix.

Never met a home-schooled kid who wasn't just a little bit off.

Sorry, Bri, but it's true.

Spitfire is hanging tough, healing, starting to bitch about the little things, so we're getting back on track.

Some things I did during the month Walsh was Inside:

1. Patched the rug that got burnt.
2. Made the bed every morning.
3. Spent thirty bucks a day on cabfare.
4. Lost three checks that I should have deposited.
5. Found them a week later in my wallet.
6. Found the way to write the opening to my textbook on Acting, something I've been taking notes for for two years now.
7. Went to the gym every weekday except for the days Nan was getting worked on in the shop.
8. Memorized the hallway leading to 8 South, got to master that hallway, owned that hallway.
9. Drank a lot of good Scotch whiskey.
10. Read and actually understood half of A Thousand Plateaus.
11. Cried like a man (suddenly, explosively, full-on for about fourteen seconds and then a quick twist of the waterworks and shut it back off)
12. Got board-certified as a Burn Nurse in the State of New York.

That last one was only in my mind, but I believe it counts.

And I didn't really cry, of course. Not me, Bud.

I'm made of iron.

And hydrogen, or something. Can't remember.

Now we're getting ready for the Grand Re-Opening of the Dime Museum. Blowing up the balloons, dusting off the dioramas, teaching the old horses the new tricks.

We're going to have hot dogs.

Spring is busting out all over here in Rat City. Flowers blooming and the garbage has that springtime smell to it. People in short sleeves yelling at each other, as opposed to all of that winter hat-wearing shouting that gets old after four months.

We've got shows to rehearse and theaters to build and meetings to fall asleep in and many words to write down and polish.

Back to bidness, by god.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

guest blogger

I don't usually do this, what with all of the trash-talk and foul language that you have to edit out, but today is a special day.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Banana Scrap, aka The Fireball Kid aka Spitfire McGee, Defender of the Faith and the Flame and Lioness of the Lower East Side.

(MMMQ answer was, of course, Cecilia. Many prizes to many people.)

Hi. So I'm home after 28 days.

Think about that.

28 days. 27 long, lonely nights.

Last night was bliss. Thank you all so much for everything. I love my husband. I love my home. I love little Fat Bunny.


That's all.

Monday, April 14, 2008

she's home

Thank you and good night.

And thank you.

the return

Lovely spring morning here in Rat City. Doctor Bessey told us yesterday that today is the day.

We'll see. I'm taking a tip from the old Muslim boys: when speaking of any future event, tag "God willing" at the end.

Or Gob willing, if you prefer.

Couldn't sleep last night, thinking that she might be home today.

Also, had to haul out all the empty whiskey bottles and chase out the prostitutes.

What's with prostitutes these days? Used to be they'd just steal your wallet and leave you in peace, now they're hanging out, eating all your cereal, leaving their underwear drying in the shower, it's just no good.

MMMQ on this most eventful day (Gob willing) tests not so much your musical knowledge as your psychic ability.

When I was a kid, playing with my sisters in the red brick house on Washington Avenue and something would go wrong in whatever game we were playing and I'd run to my room and slam the door and cry and yell, there was one song that my sisters would put on the old eight-track player that I couldn't hear and not come back out and stand in front of the speakers. It always brought me back.

What got little Johnny back in the game? Was it:

1. Mr. Tambourine Man, by Mr. Dylan

2. Cecilia, Simon and Garfunkel

3. Crunchy Granola Suite, Neil Diamond

4. Mm-Bop, Hanson

Do the mind-meld with me now and the answer should be right there.

I'm going to go put it on right now and see if anyone's up for a game of freeze tag.

Friday, April 11, 2008

day two

We're counting down on the big board.

Got through yesterday, thanks to Barb and Amy and Sanjay and Sxip and Lizzie, Ivy the tiny nurse, lots of hydro-morphone and our own native wits.

Day Five is what we're all about here at the Museum, even though some doctor-types began the "Monday... or Tuesday." mumble yesterday.

How about just "Monday"? No "...or Tuesday".

Monday or Madness.

Monday or we start killing hostages, dumping their bodies at the Emergency Walk-In.

Give me Monday or give me a lot more hydro-morphone.

I did the Karmic Dance with cabbie Avtar Singh yesterday morning.

My mornings have been fairly regimented these last few weeks. Up, smoke, make the coffee, look at the televised news, drink the coffee, check the Times homepage, check the email, type something on the screen, smoke some more, go to the gym, come home, shower, put on my pants and go out and hail a cab on Houston, fly up the FDR to the hospital, tend to the Teapot.

It's been a blur since it's been the same for the last twenty-three days. Doesn't matter what day of the week it says on the calendar, I'm up and flying up the FDR.

So yesterday I'm standing on Houston and Ridge with my hand in the air eyeing the flow. Hailing a cab is a lot like fly-fishing, except your boots don't get wet and peace and tranquility don't really enter into it. But you've got to keep the arm moving, otherwise you're just standing there like a Nazi.

On Houston, way over on the East Side where we live, you're more likely to catch a cab heading West, so what I do is I cross Houston in the morning, wave down a yellow cab, he pulls a semi-legal U-turn on Suffolk and we bang over to the Drive and race up along the East River to the hospital and Bob's your uncle.

Nothing to it. Twenty-three days in a row.

Yesterday, I hail the Troubled Taxi of Avtar Singh.

Mr. Singh was straight out of one of those bad movies about Rat City made by people who live in L.A. You know the ones, the movies where the city is only populated by Wall Street whiteguys with power ties and mistresses and expense accounts and Brooklyn guys selling pizza in their undershirts saying "Yo, Vinny!" and sweet, wise street-jiving black hustlers and all that corny bullshit.

There's always an Indian cabdriver in these movies, complete with headgear and full white beard. It's usually more of a sight gag than anything else and the bit is that he barely speaks his own language, let alone God's English.

Yesterday morning, the role of the Indian Cabdriver was played by Mr. Avtar Singh.

I climb in the back and say "66th and 1st, please" since that's where I get Nan her iced coffee and we head west, blowing right by Suffolk and the usual U-turn.

I ask,

"You're not going to take the Drive?"

Mr. Singh says something.

I shrug and lean back since I'll try anything once and most things twice.

He turns up First.

Now, about a year ago they put little TV screens in the back of all of the cabs. One of these incredibly annoying modern conveniences that make you worry about the future of the species. You can punch it off or you can catch the weather and then punch it off or you can stare at it like a hypnotized drone-slave instead of staring out the window at the Real Show going on. Your choice.

They've put these same screens in the elevators of some of the big hotels.

In the elevators.

Even if you're going to the 38th Floor, how much time is that? Two minutes?

You can't go two minutes without watching Soledad O'Brien enthuse over the wonders of some new I-Gadget?

And you know the next place these little screens will show up will be hearses. You know they've got them ready to roll out as soon as the market research says we're ready for them. So while you're being driven to Uncle Bob's funeral you can catch the five-day forecast or hear how George Clooney's new movie is doing. They'll do it right, you know, somber-voiced anchor-people, everything very "tasteful".

Tasteful. If someone says something is tasteful and they're not talking about a sandwich, you can bet they're lying. If you have to say it, then it ain't.

So we're crawling up First Avenue and I go to punch off the TV in the back of the cab. Before I can reach it, the screen goes blank and then pops back on with a long, encoded error message, encouraging me to re-start the thing or go to night school and study computer sciences so I can understand the significance of error code 553422698.

I shout up to Singh.

"Screen's dead."

He says something.

"Your screen is dead."

He says something else, or maybe the same thing, eyes on the road.

"I'm paying with credit." I elaborate, thinking that maybe putting the conversation into a monetary zone may catch his interest.

No response. He drives on, weaving slowly up the Avenue.

So I lean back. Fuck it. It's his fare. In the fullness of time, when we get up to 66th, all will be revealed.

I look out the window as we head up 1st. New view, usually it's just the East River and Queens on the far shore. We stall out around 13th Street, sputter forward a little bit, lots of honking, same old Rat City Concerto.

Then I realize what we're doing.

Houston is Zero Street if you're on the Grid. One street south of 1st Street. We're going to 66th. That's 66 blocks straight up First Avenue and First Avenue goes right into the teeth of the Beast that is midtown Manhattan.

People tearing down buildings, other buildings just falling down on their own, thirty thousand jay-walkers, trucks parked in the middle of the road or abandoned there from sometime back in the Carter administration, cops and ambulances and EMTs with their sirens blaring, full-on fucking everyday chaos.

As opposed to the Drive, where you just glide on up and get off at 62nd.

We're stuck around 23rd Street now, the meter is up to eight bucks already and the screen is still dead.

"We should have taken the Drive." I bitch helpfully.

He says something.

"Your screen's still dead." I observe, hating him.

Twenty minutes later he pulls over at 66th and First. We sit in the silence of the cab for a moment.

"I was going to use a credit card." I tell him.

He looks through the window screen, at one with the universe and then speaks.

"Touch the screen."

"I've been touching it, look." I tap, press, poke and play the flat screen like a keyboard, like I've been doing since 34th Street. Nothing.

He shrugs.

I take out twenty bucks, money I'm going to need later, and hand it up to him. My uncle was a cabdriver, so I always over-tip, that's a hard way to make your money.

I stiff Mr. Singh, bringing the tip down to what is probably normal.

"You should have taken the Drive." I instruct him as I climb out.

"Thank you, sir." he says and drives off.

I get the iced coffee, smoke nine cigarettes and go see Nancy.

The coda is that at 9:00 last night the day was balanced by the skilled and impressive reflexes of Mr. Phillip Bolnemonus, Master of the Drive.

That kid knew how to drive a cab.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

MLK, belated

With all of the personal concerns this week a terrible anniversary passed without comment. I was three years old on the day he was killed.

If he had lived, if others had lived...

Well. That's just wishing out loud.

Here's how I remember it:

Dr. King rode a bullet right up to Heaven.

God said, all innocent and all-knowing:

"What are you doing here, man?"

King said:

"Damned if I know. I was getting ready for a rally."

So God said:

"Well, hell, then you've come to the right place."

That night King killed at The Downtown Heavenly Hall.

Best speech they'd heard up there in years.

Next morning God comes by the boarding house in downtown heaven King insisted on staying at.

All of the angels and the archangels and the thrones and the dominions and all of the rest of the hangers-on in their glory and their choir were saying, come on, man, there's a penthouse waiting, we got a mini-bar, we got chicks, what are you doing?

King just frowned and said:

"If I'm riding this far, I'm riding all the way. Take me back downtown."

That morning, in the watery half-sunlight of Heaven, God looked around the crummy little room and, kind of half-assed, asked:

"You all right this morning?"

King said:

" Yeah, sure, I'm all right, but you got some problems up here."

Three hours later, God was still taking notes and wishing hard that he had cut a different deal.

I get by with a little help...


Big Lesson learned this week:

A support network is useless unless you let it support you every once in awhile.

I'm all fiercely independent most of the time, hate to ask for help, and Walsh is twenty times worse but some things you can't do alone and most things are better if you share the weight.

Share the load and you get to share the story.

Early days of the Fringe taught us that, of course, but we've morphed into a two-hander these last few years.

It's been nice, just Scrappy Jack and the Fireball Kid riding into town at the top of the episode, meeting people, getting into adventures, solving crimes while making wry quips and then learning a Valuable Lesson at the end.

Roll credits.

We make a good team. But it's good to have an army when you get into the deep trouble.

They've tea-potted her again, the Return of the Teapot Queen. The "donor site" up on her left thigh hurts the most right now but she's back on the PCA (Patient Controlled Analgesic for those not in Nurse Training) so she can dope herself up at will. This is day one, we're counting up to five and then it's Great Escape time.

I swear I'm stealing a motorcycle from a German soldier and driving her across a field and I'm jumping over that barbed wire fence if I have to.

If McQueen had had Nancy on the back of that bike he would have made it, too.

So praise Buddha and his little brother Christ and all of the dancing good things around them.

I can see a shaft of daylight and I'm tunneling towards that bastard.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

good news


She did great.

She's a champ and so are all of you.

More after many hours of sleep.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

go time

So Nancy's set for the surgery tomorrow sometime between 10 AM and 1 PM EST. Someone's on before her, so they can't give us an exact time.

I don't need to ask you what we need and I thank you in advance.

She's ready for it and she's tough as nails and come Thursday we can start counting back from five and when we reach one she comes home.

hello there Ruby Tuesday

Up late last night with Tim Cusack, fixing the American theater one glass of whiskey at a time.

Known Tim since the Nada days, early 90s on Ludlow Street, back when audience members would stand outside the theaters down here nervously looking around, clutching their wallets, resisting the impulse to hail a cab and get the hell back to civilization.

Tim worked a lot with Ian Hill and that crew, a great actor, very brave and always interesting to watch.

The Fireball Kid is still smoking, gaining ground every day. So far, she's still on the schedule for the graft tomorrow. Guess we'll know for certain sometime today.

Yesterday's highlight was a long lunch at the Starlite with the charming and beautiful Greg Kotis. She went for the chicken souvlaki. Greg had a grilled cheese so I trumped him with the grilled cheese deluxe.

Bacon with that one, plus the fries.

Show at Dixon Place last night was a lot of fun. We packed them in and went fourth on the bill. Listening to Jeff Jones read the Iliad with Snoop Doggy Dog playing softly in the background was the real treat for me, but all of the other acts were quite solid. Due to some technical weirdness, I ended up playing a major role in my Doll House piece.

Funny how that kind of stuff seems to happen to me a lot.

Paging Dr. Freud... Dr. Freud, please report to corner of Stanton and Ridge...

Congrats to Tracy Letts on winning the big P. I know Tracy a bit, a good man and a hell of an actor in addition to his obvious writing game.

And Erez Ziv wins the big MMMQ prize this morning.

If you like Erez's Skid Row tip, you'll love his theaters. He's the man behind Horse Trade Theater Group, the company that runs The Kraine, the Red Room and Under Saint Mark's Theater, three of the cleanest, best-organized 99 seat spaces downtown. I've got memories and psychic scars from those theaters going back over a decade.

Erez wins the Big Prize for nailing it down at 1685. Next time we're at a bar, E., I will buy you sixteen dollars and eighty-five cents worth of whatever it is you're drinking.

While humming Air on the G String.

Something slightly dirty about that last sentence. Disturbing image in my mind of either Erez or me wearing a G string while the other one hums.

Dr. Freud, we have a Code Blue. Code Blue. Dr. Freud to the East Fourth Street Theater District, stat...

So Letts gets the Pulitzer, but Ziv gets almost twenty bucks of alcohol. I bet Letts is wishing he'd spent more time studying up his music than sitting in his Chicago basement scribbling down dialogue.

You bet.

And we welcome Ann's corgi Lou into the Regime of Properly Named Beings.

Welcome, Lou. No biting, random barking or defecating where you shouldn't ought and you'll be a fine dog at the end of your days.

I'm off to the hospital. They're going to let me operate on a homeless guy that came in last night. I'm a little nervous, but what could be so hard about a heart lung transplant? You just take the one out and put the other in, right?

Monday, April 07, 2008

home stretch?

The good Dr. Yurt (that's not a typo) has seconded Dr. Bessey's timeline and our Teacup is tentatively scheduled for the graft on Wednesday. That would get her home on Monday the 14th, barring all weirdness.

As all show people know, it's not over until you're in the bar afterwards lying about it, but we might just be looking at the last act.

That would put her Inside for 29 nights, 28 days.

Holy Christ on a gurney.

I'm doing my Doll House subversion tonight at Dixon Place as part of the Little Theater salon. 8 PM at 258 Bowery, down between Houston and Prince. It's billed as The Last Seven Minutes of A Doll House, timed out last night at rehearsal to closer to nine. But that's what makes it a subversion, you understand? Come on down and give Dixon Place twelve dollars if you love Nancy Walsh. If you can't make it for any reason (work, another show, you live in New Zealand, etc.) then I'll know that you don't really love Nancy Walsh and I'll tell her so.

Man, that's low, huh?

Got to fill those seats.

The MMMQ this morning was going to be all about the art and practice of the didgeridoo, but it turns out that typing "didgeridoo" is the most amusing thing about the topic and I can do that without any extra research whatsoever.

Have to manage my time these days.

So, instead, we're going to put on our powdered wigs and then our thinking caps on top of those and ponder this one:

Mozart was born in 1756.
Beethoven in 1770.

What year did Bach appear on the planet?

If you're within twenty years (Price is Right rules in effect, if you're over you lose) you get a prize. If you bull's eye it, you get a big prize.

All prizes are subject to delay in delivery, disappointment in performance and over-all operational failure.

Just like in real life.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

better questions

Back from a long day at New York Presbyterian.

She's doing great. A day made full and quick with friends, gifts, family, laughter and Percocet.

People have been asking why these things happen.

I realize more, every day, that why is just not a useful question. It doesn't lead anywhere or it leads everyone to a different place and there you sit alone with your question. The question takes some to a place of refuge and that's good. But it seems to take most people to a place of weakness, pain and impotent anger.

There are other questions.


How do I proceed?

When does the cafeteria close?

What happens next?

Where can I smoke?

Who is in worse trouble right now, and

What can I do to help?

These are questions you can actually get answers to, I've found, if you keep asking them.

You can spend your life on why and the best you're going to end up with is someone else's educated guess.

And Del, if you're reading, I saw that Asian guy you were talking about and yes, he does have a lovely bunch of coconuts.

I thought you were just screwing around, but, yeah, I see what you mean.

Friday, April 04, 2008

burglars, nurses and morons

Came home last night after a long day of pretending to be a nurse and found that someone had snuck into the apartment and filled the fridge with healthy and delicious food. The same sneaky bastards left a beautiful painting (Robert Delaunay's Formes Circulaires-Soleil) in the front hall and washed all of the dishes I had carefully left in the sink.

Hate these post-modern burglars. Playing mind-games on a poor working pretend-nurse like me. A mocking little note was on the front door:


Dinner is in the fridge.

So, they know my name. They know that Nan and I were doing the South Beach Diet because all of the food is South Beach friendly.

Fiendish sons-of-bitches. I'll find them and... eat some fruit with them or something, I swear it.

Yesterday we said good-bye and thanks for all the fish to our favorite real-world nurse, Joy. Joy is a traveling nurse, which means she's in a family of itinerant thieves that prey upon the American people.


It means that she takes jobs all over the country, wherever she's needed. She's headed down to Newport News for her next gig.

Joy is aptly named and we'll miss her.

And in a poll released yesterday, 81% of Americans think the country is on the wrong track and the Idiot's approval rating is at 28%. Which raises the question these stats always raise:

Who are the 28% of people alert enough to respond to a poll that approve?

I asked our resident statistatician (I know that's not a real word, but it's what he likes to be called) Dr. Ephram Leistweiller to break it down for me.

He came in with all these charts and pies (he loves pie) and the upshot is that of the 28% who approve of the Idiot's job performance:

12% are oilmen and oilwomen with no children or grandchildren who show a strong dislike for military-age men and women and a deep hatred for glaciers and rainforests.

9% were unaware that George W. Bush was the President before they took the poll, or that they had the right to "vote" in an "election".

5% are malevolent beings from another world, just masquerading as humans and living off of negative emotions emitted by actual humans, something called "negatrons" in their native language, and

2% work at the White House.

So that clears that up.

Walsh was up and paying bills and fixing my phone yesterday. Starting to get back to it. They'll look at the wound today and then again on Tuesday and maybe, please god, do the second surgery on Wednesday. Then it's a five-day countdown to the Return of the Bride.

I did my bachelor days, you know. Did them well. But having to do them again at 44 is bullshit, like having to go back and take a job delivering pizzas or drive around St. Louis in a Pinto.

Did that. Enjoyed that. Kind of moved on.

Enjoy the week-end. I don't expect much news to break around here, so I may just hole up for the next couple of days and work on a MMMQ that will stump Ann.

I wonder how familiar she is with the Brandenburg Concerto?


Thursday, April 03, 2008


The only bad thing about all of the birds in the morning is how they cause the cat to fling herself, scrabbling and scratching, at the ever-closed window. Whatever is between her and the window (books, vases, glasses of orange juice) goes flying. I don't even think the birds notice, but it's big drama in here.

The cat lives in hope. A dim, tiny-brained hope.

Walsh was amazing yesterday. She called me around 7:30 AM and she was entirely herself. Slept about 16 hours Tuesday night and that's how you heal.

I boosted a pair of those thin hospital pajama bottoms last week, hanging around the apartment in them now. So comfortable.

Cat's getting ready to launch. It's like we're out on the veldt about to eat some antelope.

Starting to pivot back into some work this week. Great rehearsal for the Ibsen thing with Emily Loeb and Ian Alda yesterday. Doing the final scene, except they're both tied to chairs, bound and gagged. Lines will be recorded and played on two separate tape decks in front of them. Heart-breaking scene, haven't heard it in a long time.

Anyone got two tape decks? Would love those old-fashioned ones from the 70s, remember those? The flat ones?

In sports news, the New York Knickerbockers lost a close one last night to St. Dymphna's Girls Prepatory in double-overtime. Those sixth-graders are pretty fierce. You wouldn't think that a bunch of blind girls could beat a professional basketball team, but, you know...

We are talking about the New York Knicks.

Lori from Eureka sent Nan all of the candy in the world. Must be a lot of crying kids and dentists out there this morning.

And a resplendent Buddha from Amy and Sanj now hangs on Nan's hospital wall.

Cat's lost interest, asleep on the bed.

Enjoy the day wherever you are, it makes the time go faster.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

a true story

Scrappy Jack and Banana Scrap (a.k.a. the Fireball Kid) went strolling with the Monster Dog up on the Upper East Side.

The day was one of those early spring days here in Rat City, glorious in the sunshine, but still winter when you walk in the shade. Hard blue sky above, hard white people below all jacking over the sidewalks and swarming the streets, dogs in sweaters twirling on short leashes bright-eyed and yapping, mad taxis blaring and swooping around the buses and gypsy cabs, Koreans and Haitians and Dominicans and Russians, Egyptians and even a few Irish right off the boat (no lie) all shouting and swearing and selling things and invoking their many gods to make up the Babel of the City or just to get through another early spring Rat City day.

The Kid walked tough through the crowd, protecting her left flank a little, but not so you'd notice if you didn't already know. Jack played Secret Service Man, just like he did in the backyard thirty-five years ago: scanning the crowd, protecting the Principal, ready to take any one of them out, but playing it super-cool.

The Monster Dog just ran on ahead. He is, after all, a Monster Dog.

They settled into a booth at the Starlite, ordered up some iced water and coffee and thumbed through the thick plastic menus.

The Monster Dog was long gone.

He'd come back or not, no sense wasting thought on the matter.

Banana ordered her usual (for today), a triple-decker egg salad, hold the middle slice of bread, onion rings on the side. Jack thought hard about breakfast and opted for the BLT.

They sat in the silence that old couples grow and let the diner drone drift over them.

Comforting, somehow, the small-talk of strangers.

Jack glanced around and saw Buddha slurping soup in the booth across the way.

Navy bean.

An exchange of slow nods.

Mohammad was at the counter, trying to cut a deal with the Owner. Something about bringing in more tables.

Mohammad's hands illustrating his logic, the Owner staring at the floor.

Christ worked a mop over in the corner, long-haired and three days growth of beard, swirling soapy infinities one over another on the dirty diner floor.

Krishna and Arjuna strolled in off of 1st, working, but in secret.

Suddenly, a pair of young Boddhisatvas dressed in glorious rainment, first day on the Job, whooped and clapped, caught up in a private joy made hugely, beautifully public in the booth directly behind the Kid.

She took another bite of her egg salad, chewed, swallowed and asked,

"How's your BLT?"

Jack, crying for some reason, nodded and whispered,

"It's good."

time line

So we're making some progress over here.

Little Miss Teapot took her last walk down the red carpet yesterday morning, waved to the cameras, turned quickly (knocking down a few people standing a little too close) and then got out of that ridiculous contraption. She has re-emerged as the self-dubbed Teacup, wearing a much smaller, lighter and most importantly, removable splint.

Splint on. Splint off.

Doesn't have to sleep in it.


If all goes to plan, they'll look at the Integra site again on Friday, wrap her back up, look at it again on Tuesday the 8th and if it's looking right, they'll do the graft on Wednesday the 9th. Five days later, Monday the 14th, she's returned to the world.

So at least we have a time line.

Jackie McGlone from Edinburgh-ways came by yesterday with the most beautiful slippers I've ever seen. I was a little disappointed when I realized that they were for Nancy, not for your faithful correspondent, but still, it was nice.

I just waited until Teacup was in a morphine dream and convinced her that they were mine. Nothing to it.

Also, Elena K. Holy, Keeper of the Fringe, dropped off a DVD of Nan Fans speaking to the camera. She was too zonked to look at it last night, but I'm sure she's seen it by now. They get her up around 5:00 up there.

Can't tell you how much it means for her to know people are loving her from up close and afar. It does so much good.

Rehearsing my Doll House Subversion this morning over at Barrow Street. Really important for me to keep my head in some Art during the day. I can feel the Sociopathic Surge creeping in when too much time goes by and I'm not thinking about the stage.

I just get all bitey.

Huge thanks to Sheila Head for taking some of the weight off me and Special Clown Friend Barb Pitts, master of the Fly-By.

And Sanjay and Amy, of course. I swear, if I got hit by an asteroid those two would have a binder with all of the information I would need to know about asteroids in my hands that afternoon. With a funny picture on the cover. And I would actually be able to understand it.

We've got our own damned Research Department here at the Museum, kids.

And hell, everyone. We've got nuns in St. Louis and pagans in New Zealand on our side and the whole wide ragged spectrum in-between.

It's going to work out fine.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

feast of fools

Today is the official Fool's Day.

It has become my sober belief that every day I wake is a fool's day, I just have to read the front page of the Times to get confirmation and the salient details.

This from Ms. Beatrice K. Otto's Fools are Everywhere:

"God is great, but you can have too much of a good thing- hence the Feast of Fools (festum stultorm or fete de fous) allowing an "ebullition of the natural lout beneath the cassock". The feast took place between Christmas and the Epiphany and was a literal interpretation of Luke's statement that those of low degree could be exalted and the mighty lowered for a while. They would give mock sermons or sermons joyeux, interlarding pious scriptural passages with ribaldry. During the feast clerics might wear glasses with orange peels for lenses or play dice, eat, drink, dance or burn things in the censer such as shoes or sausages or puddings."

The old orange-peel-glasses gag. Classic.

In other foolishness, we lost Basra despite whatever horseshit spin you may be reading. You know why? The Iraqi Army didn't know that the streets of Basra are too narrow for the tanks they drove down in.

The Iraqi Army didn't know that.

So, we're training those guys well, clearly.


It's really going well over there.

Another headline today:

Some Houses Worth Less than Their Copper Pipes

Which is like realizing that the most valuable things you own are the fillings in your teeth.

It's just going great out there.

Walsh had a great day yesterday, thanks to some good people and, of course, some very good medication. She may be retiring the Ms. Teapot 2008 crown today, ending her glorious reign as the Human Battering Ram, She Who Walks Sideways Through Doors.

They're going to take a look at it this afternoon and do what they think is best.

Answer to the Monday Morning Music Quiz is Number Four, sorry Rosie. The good Reverend and his band the Heat are as real as can be, but Baby's on Fire has yet to be written. Ann's got a good start to it, all bow to the Lampshade Queen.