We’re here in Philadelphia for family, it’s a second event for me meeting a separate set of families on her mother’s mothers side. Great Uncle Art’s 95th birthday. Kat talked me through some of it on paper for me.
This is Judy, Art’s daughter, she kept her name. This is her husband, Fred. Also, Fred loves theater.
Oh, is he a performer?
No, I don’t think so but he loves theater.
In my family it was different. It was just my mom and my sisters and I. We might talk a little about the folks we would never see, but they were separated by years and miles and the stories were hardly plausible. Who would be capable of such things? And my mom was busy and we were difficult. I’m still difficult. It felt like some funny chosen chance that we ended up here, and that the others only lived in stories.
I bought a book in the airport on the way up, Oh My Gods. I don’t like the title, but I’m very excited about the book itself and the intent, the market niche it fills. Kathryn had told me once that she wanted to learn sometime about these myths again. And I thought about how I had learned about these things, and I said oh yeah, you should check out Edith Hamilton or Bulfinch or whatever. When I checked them out from the library, I guess I had forgotten before how boring they were. Maybe my parents or Ms Glekas at Culbreth had filled in the gaps for me. But I had seen this book Oh My Gods at the library before and eventually checked it out multiple times and appreciated its intent (and execution). Basically Hamilton and Bulfinch are whitewashed family friendly versions of the stories. While I wouldn’t characterize myself as having a craving for violence et al in my entertainment, I think it’s worth noting that in all of these–its kings, gods, and even the incipient concepts at creation, every step along the way involved some horrifying violence or forcible incest and beyond. I don’t argue that this signals these to be part of the natural order. On the contrary, I believe that the genesis of stories was born out of a deep grief and alienation: from family, from concepts of justice, from everything. I believe these things were present and buried in the pasts of the early storytellers and they had to set them to symbols. The stories are as much a survival tactic as discussion repression or medicine.
We are talking about names, we’re talking about what we are.
Not Kathryn and I. We came to an agreement and called it an engagement, and now the details of discussion don’t feel terribly urgent. At least not when it comes to deciding on a name. Something uncolonized, something aside from property agreements, something individual and aware. An acknowledgement of what we’re doing. But this moment isn’t about us.
Anyway, we are talking about names. No not a name, but an aesthetic. Or maybe both. My friends are in discussions about what we are upon a realization announcing itself to us that we’re actually capable of doing all of the things that we want to do. The biggest realization, I think, more than us being any sort of more ready, is that these are a people we want to spend all of our time with. This had partially started during Iphigenia rehearsals. Somewhere between “is this going to be a show? But we’re doing this…” and “we’ve struck on something special and i don’t know how we can recreate this experience but I can hope.”
I want to protect these things, and so I don’t talk about it too much. I keep it to a couple simple sentences on the surface. We’ve realized we love doing shows together so we’re planning on doing a lot of shows together and we also love meeting so now we’re meeting all the time. What’s more to say?
I met Art at Fred and Judy’s house. I think Art stays nearby at a retirement home that looks like a hotel to me, but I’m a small town kid. I wasn’t close to him for most of the time, until he beckoned me and said very clearly and deliberately
Are you finding people to talk to? There are many people here. A lot of branches.
I smiled and told him yeah, I, absolutely, folks have been very welcoming.
The doors are huge. Walnut, like the street. The bannister too. I wouldn’t know if they hadn’t told me. I went up to the room where my coat had been taken to, and I saw the walls of plays up there, and I saw names I recognized. I saw almost everything I looked for. Some new contemporary ones I hadn’t been able to find on my own in Davis or Perkins. The Flick by Baker. Mr Burns by Washburn, Jerusalem by Butterworth, The Coast of Utopia. The only one I thought of and couldn’t find from these Playwrights Horizons playwrights (he had some subscription it seemed, with preview editions) was Belleville by Amy Herzog, but he did have The Great God Pan and also the 4000mi/After the Revolution that I have. This was the best collection I’d seen and I was impressed. I usually think it’s frivolous to buy plays, as I haven’t finished the ones at the library yet and inasmuch as it’s frivolous to buy anything. But I loved this, I wanted this, just to hover there. Fred saw me up there and we started talking. I complimented him and soon he told me I should borrow The Flick and he was explaining the train to take to arrive at what should be an excellent production of Circle Mirror Transformation in a town where he tells me there isn’t much but their productions have been just terrific. I told him we’d try and that I’d love to borrow The Great God Pan, if possible. Of course of course, just do bring it back.
I wanted to escape and read it right away, but I understood that there were events and families and a beautiful day out and it was good to be walking. It was a beautiful weekend still at that point and with so much to do and so many people to see we would have pushed ourselves to exhaustion. Perhaps we did.
I vomited early that evening and after asking Kat throughout dinner if she was chilly, my fever started to spike. I went back to the hotel room that night and stayed through the next day. As a benefit of the house arrest that evening, I read the play. Kat came home an hour or so later and I only realized she’d caught it too when she was up in the night. Somewhere in all that I finished the play and was spinning in a fever logic processing it. Her clear structure internal to scenes, the tines that it all pricked in me like Celebration had a few weeks ago.
Herzog doesn’t read the reviews of anything. I know others who are obsessed with any press. My mother, fortunately doesn’t work towards reviews, she hardly knows how to make that direct connection as some other chefs might. Oh but every word that’s printed is something else she has to carry. Trying to ascribe meaning to these emotional outbursts in yelp reviews, much less design a restaurant system around it, and the problems are all with something outside of her jurisdiction at the restaurant anyways, but god knows she’ll try. I don’t think she should read them either.
Walking through a minefield set in place by our own traumas. Seeing Celebration and reading The Great God Pan. Celebration is for my dad and this one was for S____, so Celebration was harder, but reading pan helped me see that these zones will be there to walk in between and over and detonate for the rest of our lives.
I have a character in a story who sees this and has a plan to unearth the mines. Sure, we’d expect for people to be hurt by this. But this is truly the only way to live responsibly. Dig up the mines.
Dig up the mines. Is that what we’re doing?
An interviewer asks Herzog, but why not? You get only out of this world reviews (by “only” he means Isherwood, which was enough). She doesn’t find any of it useful, the positive or the negative. I’d agree.
Two mornings later I’ve survived the fever and I’m sorting through notes and scripts and stories and emails. Trying to parse out what we’re doing. It’s snowing here. From the hotel room I just compared the walk to this coffee shop to the walk I’d taken two days ago in a perfect sunny day, but now the air is sharp and frozen. It’s amused at us, and the reasons we decide to walk from here to there in a morning one day, while yesterday we were in bed recovering from a fever and stomach flu. What are we recovering for? What are we doing? Our flight is delayed anyway, so we walk to a coffee shop.
Coffee is combustible. It’s a good consumable gift, the way that it swiftly degenerates. We found this shop, Elixr. My computer keeps autocorrecting it to Elixir, and when I tried searching for it online, I searched for Elixir and they said it was closed. It’s good to try these things in different towns.
Like maybe for centuries people searched for an Elixir. They named a thousand things they were convincing people to sell as Elixirs. But people kept searching. Maybe there was a spelling discrepancy. Maybe it was improper marketing.
I wonder if I should bring some coffee back to my coffee friends. Or to Scott or others. I imagine that to these folks, having coffee in a gift bag in a world where they can be drinking free coffee forever because they make it, test it, throw it out and talk about it. I applied for the job for the friends anyway. I do think about them when I try it, comparing the elixir to the piedmont espresso. I certainly appreciated Ultimo yesterday, and it had the sharpness of one of our own single origins or Cocoa Cinnamon’s. But I think in the end I’m looking forward to the piedmont blend when I get back home, and its comfortable contradictions. This Elixr isn’t too dissimilar. Maybe with a splash of the Sumatra and some of the Ethiopia.
I’m not an expert on this. I can pepper in some words but my indonesian-tastebuds are unpracticed. Most of smell is vision anyway. Imagine bleaching out all the fruits and candies in the supermarket. It’d be criminal. All you’d taste is bleach.
I want to tell him sometime. Consider a new website design. Look at Elixr, it’s beautiful. Talk to Randy, everything he touches is perfect because he is pure of heart. Allow this website to provide for easy distribution, like for other companies who have a guest espresso slot to want to offer you. For it to be more convenient than ordering from their own sister shop. For us to change our offerings more regularly. Even if what we have is good, i think people are excited about that. About having a different espresso each month. Ultimately these are details, though. A shop’s concern should be the emotional experience of the customer. What do I know? I don’t know him that well. I collect these phrases from nowhere. I should really be working on the restaurant. Or our company, my adaptations and plays.
We are talking about an aesthetic. How do you tell a story from the spine? How do we parse out and acknowledge what we’re doing?