Friday, October 31, 2008


I'm amazed at what I've taken for granted the last twenty years or so.

Here on the East Coast, the autumn days are stunning, in the actual sense that you stare at a tree with no thoughts buzzing and yapping in your feverish head for a few blessed seconds, just gawking at the branches and the leaves.


Deep blue sky, red and yellow and pink (I swear, pink) leaves drifting down.

I've got to get a rake, but man it's pretty.

Four days before the madness ends and then I don't know what I'm going to do with myself.

Have to start writing about the theater again, I suppose.

The theater.


Now, that's something we're going to have to fix.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

back to it

On the road all day today, make base camp in the Poconos tonight, Gob willing, and then Rat City Saturday morning, catch a flight to Belfast, Ireland Saturday night.

No rest for the wicked, as my father used to say.

Caught the Obama infomercial thing last night.

Didn't change my mind much, but I did switch my insurance to Prudential and went out and bought a Chevy.


That's something.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Had the funeral mass for Mary this morning, a full church at 9 AM on a weekday, not bad for an old lady who didn't get out much towards the end.

Been to too many of these the last few years, but there's a real comfort in the tradition and the same words and a lot of the same faces as well.

The family is doing well, holding fast to each other.

This from the Gospel of St. Lyle:

What makes those little ones grow old
To find enternity?
And what takes the wise and leaves behind
A foolish one like me?

Back home tomorrow, Belfast on Saturday, a winding road ahead.

So long, Mary.

Now you know the answer to every question you ever asked.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

rainy day in New England

Up here in Massachusetts for the next few days with Nancy's family. Visiting hours at the funeral home tonight and Mary's funeral in the morning tomorrow.

Stayed up late last night finishing John Galsworthy's The Forsyte Saga. I found his collected works down in the basement a few months back, originally bought by Mary's father, John Hugh Reilly, back around 1925.

Mary got a huge kick out of the fact that I wanted the books, calling me "the only man in America reading Galsworthy".

Great stuff, actually.

We're all just puttering around the house, staying quiet and being nice to each other.

Outside the weather is playing its part well, soft rain and grey skies.

A good day to hold on to someone you love.

Monday, October 27, 2008

r.i.p. mary ellen reilly walsh

And may perpetual light shine upon you.

Nancy's mom and my beloved mother-in-law died peacefully Sunday morning, holding the hand of her husband of near 59 years. We arrived at the hospital moments later and while it was inexpressibly sad and quiet in her room, it was good to see her finally at rest.

A child of the Great Depression, born in 1923, Mary was a true daughter of New England, a fierce and funny Yankee, an old-school Irish-American Roman Catholic Democrat who proudly filled out her absentee ballot days ago while in her hospital bed. She worked for Navy Intelligence during World War II and had her children convinced she was America's own Mata Hari. She raised those children, Tom, Jane and my own Nancy, to work hard, buck up and expect the best in people.

She was rare and I'll miss her greatly. She somehow combined an unshakeable faith with an open and questioning mind, a life-long curiousity and hunger for other viewpoints and new information. We'd sit at the dining room table, the two of us, talking about God and evil and the Church and tradition and the inability of a finite thing to grasp the infinite and I don't think one of us ever convinced the other of a thing, but that never seemed the point.

The funeral mass is Wednesday morning at nine, in the church Nancy and I were married in seventeen years ago, Holy Trinity in downtown Greenfield.

We'll be back in the city over the weekend, I suppose.

We're all MMMQ winners today. The question is:

What is the song that will remind me always of the mother-in-law?

And the answer is:

1. Ave Maria

Thanks all for the good wishes and support over the last week, they mean the world to Nancy and her family.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

send good thoughts

Your target area is Greenfield, MA, where Nancy's mom is struggling.

We're all up here with her, sitting around the hospital room, staring at her and generally getting in the way of the nurses.

Mary was diagnosed with lymphoma a little while back and while she's the toughest old Yankee I know, the doctors said we should all be here now.

More when I know more.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

just let it be over

I'm as nervous as a nun in a whorehouse, just let it be November 4th and let's count the votes and be done with it.

Nun in a whorehouse?

That should be whore in a nunhouse.

Whore in a hen-house.

Hen in a crack house?

Don't worry, I'll edit this all out.

Got some solid work in on The Postmen yesterday, first time in weeks I've sat down and really worked on it. Great feeling when you're writing something new, chasing it down the page, half of the brain whispering to the other half, other half just scribbling it all down.

Found our musical elves, Clay Adams and Jeff Gurner join our Holiday Crew. We're having an invited reading of The Truth About Santa on Sunday, October 26th at 3:00 down at the Ohio Theater's 6th Floor Studio on Wooster Street, everyone's invited, come if you're in town.

Beautiful fall day out there in Rat City, might have to run around out there and get into some trouble.

I'm as restless as a cat in a funhouse.

Nun in a cathouse.

Cat in a henhouse?

That one almost means something.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

late october itch

Always get to feeling this way around this time of year.

Another year starting to slide away, projects piled up on the desk, plans half-made, half-completed, calendar crowded with meetings, calls to return and me sitting here restless, revved up, a little bit tired and ornery, scrapping with myself.

Maybe it's something I learned in school, this being about the time in the semester when I'd realize, once again, I was going to have to hustle my ass off to squeak out a passing grade in all of those classes I had dreamed through.

Maybe it's just the season, summer well and truly gone, leaves falling, the natural, larger reminder that things end and there is very little anyone can do about it.

Maybe I caught a touch of the Whooping Mountain Fever, I hear it makes a man think all kinds of things and gibber and gnash his teeth.

Don't know.

Just kind of itchy inside.

All's right with the MMMQ, though, Ann and Rose are reinstated as the Mistresses of Quiz. Ann knew that Mr. Headon went by "Topper", for some obscure reason, and Rose knows that he should have gone by "Smilin' Jim the Washboard Man".

Ann and Rose face the Phillies on Wednesday for a best of seven series.

Good luck, ladies.

It's all about the pitching.

Monday, October 20, 2008

no joy in mudville

Besides being the name of a very fine south Jersey band of my acquaintance, it is the emotional weather forecast for Red Sox Nation.

Didn't have enough in the end to get past the shockingly young Tampa Bay Rays, heading to their first World Series on Wednesday.

One arena America still dominates in is the World Series. Do you realize an American baseball team has won the World Series every year since the game began?

Every year. Extraordinary.

Going back to the salt mines this week, starting up The Truth About Santa rehearsals, working on my piece for the Belfast Swing State Cabaret and so on.

Our MMMQ this fine fall Monday goes out to the Lampshade Queen Herself, proof that bitching and moaning will get you anything around here.

In 1976, with the great rock and roll masters of the 60s and 70s lurching into Dinosaur Territory or gingerly gimping out onto the disco dance floor, one band arose and kept the flame alive for the next generation. The essential, the inimitable, the righteous, The Clash placed a collect call from London to the rest of the world, free and otherwise, and invited us all to become Clash City Rockers.

From 1976 to 1982 the line-up was Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and:

1. Nicky "Diablo" Headon

2. Nicky "Hopper" Headon

3. Nicky "Topsy" Headon

4. Nicky "Topper" Headon


5. Nicky "Smilin' Jim the Washboard Man" Headon.

Winners get to face the Phillies on Wednesday, losers go home.

Friday, October 17, 2008

do me a favor

I'm not usually one to ask, but some friends of the Museum over at The New York Innovative Theater Awards are trying to pull some numbers together about the Off-Off Broadway world, so if you're part of that world, go to:

and fill out the survey, takes about a minute.

Do this now, please.

Saw some exceptionally musical elves yesterday, thanks to all who showed.

I haven't watched Letterman in years, but caught the McCain interview last night.


You don't usually see a friendship break up right there on national T.V.

Up to Greenfield this weekend to see the in-laws, Spitfire has the car, so I'm riding the Hound.

Good weekend to all.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

three zip

Obama sweeps, McCain jabs, a spooked and jittery nation blinks and stares at the screen, praying for a miracle.

Nineteen days out, the debates over, nothing to do now on either side but shout, lie, smear and spend your last penny hammering home two or three simple phrases.

Democracy as a rugby match, welcome to the scrum.

In other news, Nancy Reagan is in the hospital with a broken pelvis. Apparently she was reaching down to strangle an orphan and she slipped.

Wait. That can't be right.

She was throwing some mentally ill people out into the street (god bless her, she still pitches in) and she slipped.


What is it with us that we forgive someone as soon as they begin to dodder about?

Villains only get worse as they age, more fragile and self-justifying, surrounding themselves with acolytes and slavish supporters.

I don't care if she's 100, smells of lavender and bakes a mean ginger cake, the woman is a harpy and when she finally drops they better put a stake through her tiny heart if they don't want her rising back up.

She couldn't look into a camera without arrogance, self-satisfaction and contempt flooding the frame and cracking the lens.

A horrible woman.

I'm off to the Free Night festivities in Union Square, then an afternoon of auditions for The Truth About Santa.

We're looking for musical elves.

But, then again, aren't we all?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

the arizona wildcat's last stand

Johnny Mac has got 'em right where he wants 'em.

Twenty days out, fourteen points down, not a single friend he can count on.

He's a wily one, let there be no doubt.

A maverick.

One rumor out there is that he'll endorse Obama tonight, divorce Cindy and announce his plans to move to Connecticut and marry Joe Lieberman.

Another rumor is that he'll use some old ju-jitsu on Obama during the ritual handshake at the top of the debate, wrestle him to the floor and make a citizen's arrest right there.

And then divorce Cindy, move to Connecticut and marry Joe Lieberman.

You see? He's got everyone guessing.


I'll watch tonight with expectations lowered down to the floor. It's a little dispiriting to watch Senator O pull away like your grandmother driving a trailer down the highway: cautious, looking in every direction, smiling and waving back at you, not entirely sure where she's going as she disappears around the bend.

But when you're up, you just try to run out the clock, that's Politics 101.

Ann brought down young Rose/Adam yesterday, proving that the Tuesday Morning Music Quiz is twice as tough as the old MMMQ.

Papa Lacy shouts out to the Texas crowd at the top of the very strange and unsatisfying "Lynyrd Skynyrd Live". It actually ends with Lonnie or Donnie or Johnnie telling the audience that only one man can sing Freebird, and as he's dead, no one is going to sing it tonight. Then he tells the crowd to sing it, and they play every note, with the Dallas mob howling in the background.

I'm listening to this, flying down the dark road a few nights ago, and I say to McGee,

"Y'know, this is kind of cool to listen to."

And she pauses, eyes the road, eases into the passing lane and says,

"Yeah. Once."

No prizes, booby or otherwise were promised yesterday, so Ann and Rose get a free pass and a strong admonition to bone up on their Southern rock, classic or otherwise.

I grew up in St. Louis, after all.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

on the road

Been driving through New England the last three days, some of the trips unexpected, all of them in the tireless Car 220 with Spitfire at the wheel. Got caught just west of a huge propane spill on interstate 84 yesterday afternoon, forced off the road and into Middletown, New York.

Holy Gob on High, that's a hellish little town. Every other sad shack of a house for sale or rent, liquor stores and cash-checking joints doing the only noticeable business.

We drove right through the town at a funeral pace with all the rest of the highway traffic, the residents of Middletown staring at us all in incurious resentment and dull hate. We stared back in pity and wonder.

Some towns are dead and some towns are dying and then there are the Zombie Lands of sprawl-ridden, chain-store devoured middle America.

Lay down, Middletown. Have the sense to know you're dead.

Our Tuesday Morning Music Quiz this holiday week comes from an impulse purchase at a rest area food mart out on the New York State Thruway just south of Albany. I saw "Lynyrd Skynyrd Live" and bought the thing for 9.99. Forty miles later I realized I had picked up a copy of the 1987 Tribute Tour. Charlie Daniels is on it and his fiddle is on fire, but it just ain't the same.

Who greets the crowd from the stage in Dallas, Texas at the top of the album?

Is it:

1. Brother Donnie Van Zandt

2. Sister Connie Van Zandt

3. Mother Macy Van Zandt

4. Father Lacy Van Zandt


5. Dick Van Patten from the wonderful family comedy/drama "Eight is Enough"?

Friday, October 10, 2008

a carousel of time

This is FDR, from his first inaugural address, March 4, 1933:

"...Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.

True, they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.

The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.

Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow-men.

Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit; and there must be an end to the conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing. Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, on unselfish performance: without them it cannot live."

The opposition couldn't afford rotten fruit to throw at him, so they just muttered "Commie rat bastard" and stumbled home to the poorhouse to die of consumption and yellow fever.

Roosevelt wrapped up the speech by saying:

"And so, my fellow Americans, I can't seem to feel my legs. Oh god. God! Falling!"

And he pitched right off the the platform, crushing an apple-vendor's cart and startling a young Helen Thomas on her first day on the White House beat as a second-stringer for the New York Tribune-Post-Republican-Democrat-Banner-Journal, a fine paper of the day.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

on building a wall

One thing we're rich in out here in the Poconos is rocks.

If the economy really shifts and we revert to a rock-based system, McGee and I are going to be freaking Rockefellers out here.

I will be Thurston Howell the IV.

What with all the rocks lying around and me with some time on my monkey hands, I've started a stone wall that will, in time, ring around the property and protect us from bears, Jehovah Witnesses and Mountain Witches and Ju-Ju Men.

I'm rolling boulders, digging stones out of the ground, staggering around with rocks the size of small suitcases, stacking, stacking, building a wall.

It's tremendously satisfying in a quiet, slightly mad way.

I've felt the obsession grow over the last week. I stare at the wall from every window of the house, walk out to it whenever I get a minute and dedicate at least an hour a day to full-on Wall Work. I'm noticing stone walls everywhere, envying other people's piles of rocks, sneaking over to the neighbor's property when he leaves and rolling some rocks closer to our place.

It's the pure flame of private property burning me, I suppose. The simplicity of a line drawn, marking Mine and Not-Mine.

It's frankly all I think about these days.

The theater, Nancy, politics, my family, writing, all of these I see now were just preparation for the Great Work, my true purpose on this earth.

I shall build the Wall and Dwell inside it's Shadow for all my Days.

Or at least until we run out of groceries.

Back to the city tonight, praise Jebus. Going mad, pleasantly, out here in the mountains. Need some hustle and some bustle if I'm going to stay sharp.

But now, to the wall.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

johnny mac needs a nap

Or to get back on his meds or something.

Craziest thing about last night's exhibition is that McCain pushed for the town hall format, wanted to do like twenty of them or something.

What's the thought process there?

"Y'see, if we're standing there side by side, the people can see, without doubt, that I'm an old, cranky, kind of weird guy and that my opponent, that one, is young, graceful, warm and much more human than my old creaky ass. Maybe we should run some kind of obstacle course at the end, you know, jump over things and climb a wall or something? Then I could be lying on the ground at the end, unable to catch my breath or move while he dances around with his hands in the air. Y'see?"

What we got here is a critical, near fatal gap between self-image and reality.

Johnny thinks he's a fun-loving ex-Navy pilot going up against the Establishment.

But the world looks at him and sees... the Establishment.

Anyway, Obama took the night, giving me a very nice birthday present.

Thanks to all for the good wishes.

Now to work. Scribbling away on the Postmen and much League of Independent Theater bidness to get done.

Back in Rat City on Friday, a man can only take so much peace and quiet.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

natal day

I'm sitting here in a birthday hat, wearing nothing else except my birthday suit.

Many years ago, on this very day, my mother was in great pain.

But then I arrived and have been giving her solace and comfort ever since.

Except for a couple of years back in high school, of course, but I blame Christian Saller, Dave Weems, Al Barclay and the rest of those hooligans.

It's a good day to have been born, a good day to be alive, a good day all around.

Ann's Jim and Carl split the Cabin in the Sky. Lester and Earl stood in that big front hall with Jed and Granny and Jethro and the luscious Ellie Mae and they fiddled their fingers off. Buddy Ebsen even kicked his legs and showed the old moves, chorus boy that he was.

Well done, gentlemen.

And now...


Monday, October 06, 2008

becoming an american

I spent the weekend taking care of the lawn.

Bought a lawnmower, fired that boy up, mowed like a maniac.

Borrowed my father-in-law's weed-whacker, whacked the hell out of many a weed.

Then stood there, downed a cold Budweiser, and considered what I had done.

Stood there nodding in appreciation and self-regard, the primitive American male mantra rising unbidden to the front of my mind.

"Good lawn. Good work. Me hungry."

Holy Gob and all of the saints, I need to get back to the city.

I need some random shouting and ear-splitting sirens and packs of young tattooed bohos jaywalking and jabbering self-importantly about their retro-punk ska band.

Need that sweet-sour smell of the Chinatown garbage rising in the morning sun.

But, man. Seriously.

You should see that lawn.

Our MMMQ stays in the hills and tests your redneck I.Q. and/or your encyclopedic knowledge of late 60s prime-time televised entertainment.

Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, acknowledged masters of Country and Western, appeared on what T.V. show as "Cousin" Lester and "Cousin" Earl?

Was it

1. Petticoat Junction

2. The Beverly Hillbillies

3. The Andy Griffith Show

4. Hootenanny


5. Dragnet

Winners get a Cabin in the Sky, losers have to sleep outside with the dogs.

Friday, October 03, 2008

palin survives to the next round

All right, I admit I was deeply disappointed the governor didn't freeze up and vomit all over the podium or run shrieking off the stage, but that was a less than stellar performance last night.

Here's my big-city, 21st century bias:

Any adult who says "doggone it" is either

A. a class A moron


B. hustling you

When you say "doggone it" you mean "goddamnit" so say that or don't say anything at all.

End of the day, it changed no minds either way, so we move on to the heavyweight card on Tuesday.

I'm hustling New Zealand and other points down under for a screwmachine/eyecandy tour in the spring, maybe some Fatboy action as well. We've been offered a deal in Adelaide, trying to pick up extra dates in other cities to make it work.

Anyone got a venue and a stack of cash down there?

Do let me know.

And in heavy pre-production and scheduling for The Truth About Santa. My least favorite part of this carnival ride. It never makes any sense or feels like it will ever possibly happen until you're in rehearsal and it starts singing.

The L.A. Times liked Fatboy, so we like those sunburnt, smooth-talking bastards.

Here's some of what they said:

Fatboy succeeds as sheer satire

"Fatboy" commences with a barked expletive -- an "m" word not uttered in polite company. It's a fitting opening for John Clancy's playful take on Alfred Jarry's "Ubu Roi," which also opens with a verboten French "m" word of a more scatological variety.

Legendarily, that single opening word of "Ubu Roi" so shocked playgoers at its 1896 Paris premiere that they erupted in screaming riot. The opening night patrons at Clancy's play, now in its West Coast nod at the Imagined Life Theater (formerly 2100 Square Feet), merely guffawed appreciatively during a blue streak of crudity that would make Lenny Bruce flip in his grave...Clancy delivers his message with a refreshing lack of pretension that sets him apart from the typically self-righteous agitprop crowd.

Clancy's eponymous hero Fatboy (née Ubu), played by the amply padded Alexander Wells, is a deceptively comical cartoon. Punch to his shrewish Judy of a wife (Rebecca Jordan), Fatboy demands pancakes. When they are not forthcoming, he devours chairs -- courtesy of prop designer Renee Peffer's marshmallow inserts.

Don't let the gaudy trappings of Mark Mendelson's sideshow set and Vandy Scoates' vaudevillian costumes fool you. It's no accident that Fatboy's name is an amalgam of the bombs that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Paradoxically, on-stage anarchy requires dictatorial direction and pinpoint pacing to come to a point. Director Ian Forester is bracingly cheeky, as is his engaging cast.

I'll take that.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

looking ahead

Trying to figure out the rest of the year here in the wild mountains of the Poconos.

Julie McMurchie, a Western friend of the Museum's, pointed out unhelpfully that the Poconos aren't proper mountains. Forced me to consult Wikipedia, which names the area a "mountainous region".

Good enough for me.

Besides the mounting writing projects, the rest of 2008 holds another showing of The Event at Williams College, complete with a workshop led by myself; a very random and strange appearance by me and Spitfire in Belfast on Election Day as part of Tinderbox Theater's Swing State Cabaret and the world premiere of Greg Kotis' The Truth About Santa, an apocalyptic holiday tale, opening December 3rd at the Kraine Theater on E. 4th Street, directed by me, featuring many Clancy Production regulars.

Should keep us dancing to the beat.

Trying to keep myself calm and my expectations low for the big debate tonight. Most of me is praying for the Big Meltdown, of course, but remember, it's a very low bar.

Back in 2000, when asked to name a political hero, the Idiot, simpering, responded with:

"Jesus Christ. Because he changed my heart."

And no hooks appeared to drag him offstage. In fact, his numbers went up.

I love the scene: Christ in the smoke-filled back room, puffing on a fat cigar, leaning over the table and laying it out to the boys:

"Here's how we're going to play it, boys. I'll rile up the people, see? Miracles, trash-talking the Pharisees, the whole magilla, right? Then you betray me, I get arrested, dragged around, you deny me, especially you, Pete, they crucify me, I die, and then three days later we meet up at the tomb. What do you say?"

Very radical, yes, but doesn't win you Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

october dawn

A new month, summer truly gone, all things turning autumnal.

Best time of year, with the leaves falling and the nights turning cold. Makes you grateful for a roof over your head and a hand to hold when the lights go out.

Much work to be done, finishing Postmen, pre-production for The Truth About Santa, lots of League business. Came across this in John Banville's Birchwood, a good reminder that although there's always plenty of things to get done, the heart of what we do is something other than work:

"...It was a game that we played, enchanters and enchanted, tossing a bright golden ball back and forth across the footlights, a game that meant nothing, was a wisp of smoke, and yet, and yet, on the tight steel cord of their careful lives we struck a dark rapturous note that left their tidy town tingling behind us."

Happy Day today to Elizabeth Williams nee Clancy and happy days to us all.