Monday, September 19, 2011


I started a couple of new blogs based on current activities in my life.
I started an acting studio in San Antonio.
I started a new blog for my drawings.
Please visit.

Monday, July 25, 2011


There were all these little birds around my car when I went out this morning-- those little brown ones-- what are they?-- sparrows? They seemed to be bunched up under and around my back right tire and they flew away startledly as I approached, some of them bunching precariously on the chain link fence in front of my car, then flying further away as I unlocked my car and got in. As I drove east on Basse, near the coffee place and Sushi Zushi, there was a white-winged dove in the street ahead of me, with its head turned in the opposite direction. Usually birds wait till the last possible second, then they fly away, so I didn't bother to slow down. I ran over that dove, heard it thud against the undercarriage of my car, and saw feathers fly up in my rearview mirror. A horrible shock ran through me and I shouted out, "Christ!" I turned around at the next intersection to backtrack. There is no room to pull over on that section of Basse and at this time of morning cars are coming fast and constant. As I re-drove the same two blocks I saw no sign of the bird, not even a feather. I kept driving and felt very sad.
I stopped at Starbucks but when I went in, it was so crowded that I just got disgusted and went to work.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

De Café

The Starbucks manager is upset today. Not for any particular reason, though those unfinished quarterly reports are looming on the counter next to the stale iced coffee, those unifinished quarterly reports, just pieces of paper, so small and seemingly benign, yet with such an insidious and evil influence. It doesn't help that it's a Wednesday-- days of the week, by virtue of themselves, have that kind of effect on him, the very worst days always being Monday and Wednesdays-- and that Marcus never responded to his Facebook posting. But that's another story. There's really, like I said, no good reason.
And a young woman at the counter is being obtuse about her order. She won't use the proper coffee terminology (she keeps saying "large" instead of "venti," and she even said EXpresso), and she's looking at the menu board as if that will give her any resemblance of a clue.
"Yeah, uhh... I'm gonna need a large... no, a medium... uh... what's a Machado?"
The Starbucks manager is tapping his fingers on the keypad, adjusting his collar, taking a deep breath, letting it out slowly, looking around, licking his lips. There's really no reason to be upset. No reason to let one ridiculous customer ruin your morning, he says to himself. Breathe. Just breathe.

Friday, July 22, 2011

In Search Of Inspiration, Ouija-Wielding Youth Consults His Dead Heroes

It would be an important story. So important that I called upon all my dead heroes to help me with it. James Merrill, the first hero I called upon, said, “O, you’re using my method. First inspired, then poised to attack! Go ahead, I’ll help you with it-- whom else would you like to call back?”

I was so delighted to have contacted JM that I reverted to adolescence and said, “cummings, mr. cummings,” upon which my basic Ouija skipped out upon me the following letters: “hear/tso/proclam/a/tory/you’d/thinkitwasafidgetingantlion.”

Somewhat predictable. “Has nothing changed since your life on earth, edward estlin?” I asked him. And there was no response. I can only assume he was offended by my cavalier hand. Merrill, as ever the dutiful guide, stepped back into play. “Well, that was quick. He’s flown. But whom else? Let’s move on.”

This time I was a tad bit chancier with my choice. Since I had been indulging in his music of late, I asked for Frank Zappa.

“Expect no manifesto. I’m currently undergoing a precarious kind of global-spatial-psychotherapeutic-cosmological chemotherapy.”

“For your cancer?” I asked.

“For all the cancer I absorbed on earth which was not mine. All the cancerous filaments I exposed myself to. But this is already too much, you know, I'm out of breath. Check back with me in six months.”

Upon which JM returned. “He looks good, though; you wouldn’t be saddened. His face has fleshed out. His aura has gladdened.”

“That’s nice to know,” I ruminated, getting a wave of emotion through my eyeballs.

Spurred on by JM’s encouragement, my next choice was also musical, my old hero Sergei Prokofiev.

“Hello,” he said quietly, then, “What would you have of me?”

“An inspiration, my dear,” I announced too chummily. I realized this mistake when JM said, “Careful. Slow. He’s awfully shy.”

I took a deep breath and another try, saying, “Do you know, Sergei Sergeivich, that you and I were both born on April 23rd?”

“They never quite knew,” he answered. “They were unsure as to whether that was my real birthday or not.”

“How could they be unsure?” I asked.

“Nothing was sure. Everything was a fugitive vision. Alas, that is the way life was back then. It was our curse, yet it was what we thrived on.”

If I could have sighed through the Ouija board, I would have. All I spelled back was, “Oh.”

To which dear Sergei Sergeivich said, “But do not let my doubt fool you. If it is true that we share a birthday, if anything is true, then I congratulate you and raise a glass to your health.”

“Thank you,” I replied, and JM stepped in with, “He says you’re welcome. All covered with scales and shell-scum. Exuding notes, cadence and dance. What an odd person to have met by chance.”

“My favorite composer,” I groaned, head on hand. “Boy, this is turning into something of a let-down.”

“Quick, another!” Merrill commanded, and I found myself tremble-handed, as if JM were shaking me in anticipation.

Virginia Woolf,” I uttered stonily, mostly out of intimidation.

“Yes, what is it?”
“Ms. Woolf?...”

“That’s who I was,” she said.

“Do you have any ideas you could share?”
There was a hesitation in which I shrank, sensing that I was indeed a foolish young man.

“Well, I have many ideas, and through the current medium you’ve chosen, I suppose I could share them. I mean I could, certainly. But the question is, young person, why would I want to? What would inspire me, living or dead (and I am dead, you know) to give away my ideas, my thoughts, my words to a complete stranger? And do you know what’s most horrific about it? I had no choice but to answer your call. For all you know I may have been doing something quite important and vital on the far end of the astral plane. How presumptuous of you to have invoked me from your small and strange spot.”

“I beg your forgiveness,” I responded, “and won’t keep you.”

And Woolf was gone. Who’s afraid of her? Well, me, a little.

“She’s busy,” JM said simply. “No time for old worries, earthly concerns. Nonetheless there’s a fire inside her, and it burns.”

“So I see,” I said simply, noting the smoke sailing up from the board. “Next I’d like Fyodor. Dear Dostoevsky. What of him?”

There was a pause. Then JM: “I’m afraid the gambler is unavailable. His pockets have been used. I’d tell you what’s become of him; chances are, you’d be confused.”

“What’s become of him?” I demanded, urged, begged.

“A reincarnation,” JM replied. “Not to say reneged.”

“And who, pray tell, is he now?” --not letting him gloss this one over.

James paused, and considered, and said, “He's your lover.”

Ha-ha-ha, I thought. Sure-- all for the sake of a rhyme. “You can’t fool me, JM: My lover Amy’s nothing like him.”

“Ah, but it’s a not-her,” he drew.

“A not-her? Another? Then who?”
“Maybe you’ll know, maybe you’ll not. But be on your guard, because he’ll hit the spot.”

A crude rhyme. I could sense Merrill’s tension and chose another. It was like a cosmic fast food sampling-- tasty and infinitely unsatisfying.

Tolstoy,” I murmured, still wondering when I would make love to Fyodor.

“Ah yes, the lover of dear Fedya,” said Leo with a broad stroke and a scent of smoked salmon and vodka and cucumbers. “You’re a good-looking young thing, but I always thought Fedya preferred the ladies... not the gents.”

Delighted, stupefied, I said, “Anything can happen. Can I call you Dyadya Lev?”

“If you must. Though I prefer, for our purposes, LT.”

“LT it is. How is life in space, and why haven’t you also been reincarnated?”

“It is not life in space, as you so perversely assume. It is life without space, for space is essentially a human distinction, and once we have shuffled off that mortal coil, space as it once held meaning becomes meaningless. Here there is no matter, no space... just rhythm and stoppage, counseling and deafness. I don’t much care for it, though to reincarnate hasn’t yet been my choice, because of the sheer terror of that transition through the womb. In all my human years I never got over the trauma of being born... what a fright it instills in you. Seems to me a more comfortable, less violent entry into living could have been fashioned by now. But perhaps I just don’t understand--”

“Time’s up,” Merrill stepped in. “We must move on.”

“He wasn’t finished!” I admonished.

“He would have talked till dawn. You've other guests, I trust?”

“Why so negative about Lev Nikolaevich?”

“He’s just a cloud of dust. He regrets his death, yet chooses not to return. After all this ambling around for years you’d think he’d learn. But he just glances around coughing, his hat doffing every so often, for chivalry, which, here more than anywhere else, is in its coffin.”

I couldn’t believe that such an industrious, energetic and charismatic man could be such an irritant in the afterlife. I would’ve thought he’d be creating new souls, new systems, new progress. Instead, he’s inert.

“But we digress,” JM did blurt.

Flannery O’Connor,” I said.

JM said with flair, “Now we’re getting somewhere!”

“Who calls to me from beyond the grave?” was Flannery’s introductory line.

“I hope I haven’t disturbed you,” I said.

“Always glad for some company,” she said. “Well, usually. And who’re you?”

“A fan, a simple fan, trying to get inspired.”

“Have you tried Aeschylus?” she suggested.

“Ugh, too stiff.”

“Not at all,” said O’Connor. “Good loose stuff. It’ll mix those juices right up and get you going.”

“Maybe I’ll try him. Who else would you recommend?”

“Oh, Conrad. Joyce. And Jamieson.”

“Not well-known. But read and be inspired. Then there’s one other text I think you may have ignored for a while. You know the one.”

“Old or New Testament?”

“Both, silly goose. Read them both.”

Sheepishly, almost crying out of a touched and embarrassed son’s guilt and sensitivity, I said, “Yes’m.”

“Keep in touch.”

And she was gone.

“Wow,” I said. “What’d she look like?”
“Guess,” said Merrill.

“Yes,” said Merrill.

We sat together, JM and I, and there was a quiet minute between us, till I said, “Any advice from you, JM?”
He chuckled a tiny chuckle and said, “The book you’re in need of you've since taken off the shelf. When in doubt and when confused, simply kiss yourself.”

That was the poignant end to my jaunt into the world of my dead heroes. For a while afterwards I couldn’t stop hearing everything as a rhyme. As I sat down, thus inspired, to write, an unknown voice came tumbling to the front of my head, saying, “You’ve offended cummings. Why was Zappa still in pain? Prokofiev says nothing’s sure. Virginia caught a plane. Fyodor is your lover, Tolstoy is all grey. Flannery says the Bible. But what do you want to say?

And with that I set down my pen, lay down on my bed, and wanted to cry, wanted to die, having never said anything at all.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Stuff's Happnin'

Walking. An hour of time spent well. Three minutes brisk followed by three minutes relaxed, ten times. Houses, sidewalks, trees, cats, cars, people, joggers, babies, bikers, a little girl on a scooter. Playlist in my ears is 20 songs, 10 fast, 10 slow, interspersed to match the pace of my walk.
In other news, Hedda Gabler opened this weekend. I am having fun playing George Tesman, Hedda's well-meaning husband, though I also feel that I haven't fully hit my stride yet.
I've been asked to play Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire next spring. It was a jaw-dropping offer, a role I never thought I'd be asked to play, though I did make a paltry effort at Stanley during a sophomore workshop production in college. I am not very much like Stanley in most ways, though the director has been very persuasive in reminding me of the ways I am very much like him-- full of rage, judgmental, driven by desire. There will be a preliminary reading at the end of the month.
I am putting together material to start my own acting studio, called River City Actors Studio. The paint is still being mixed on this one. Updates to come.
I've been asked to act in a relatively new play called God of Carnage, by Yazmina Reza. It is the story of two couples, parents whose children got in a fight at school. It's a remarkably funny, harrowing play that I look forward to working on. The Broadway cast included Marcia Gay Harden, James Gandolfini, Hope Davis, and Jeff Daniels.
And isn't that new Beastie Boys album gooood...................

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Dream ...

I dreamt that I was applying for a job at Waterloo Records in Austin. There was a huge poster behind the register, among tons of other media, of my friend Helen in a movie called "School Days." It pictured her lying lengthwise on her side across the bottom of the poster, looking at the camera, her head propped on her hand, and in the background behind her, a lot of young men in prep school ties and jackets. I told a woman working there that I wanted to apply for a job and we started chatting. I mentioned that I knew Helen and remembered that she had actually worked at Waterloo before moving to New York City. The woman seemed weathered and resentful because she'd had aspirations of being an actress too. Eventually she took me to another room in the store and I was introduced to another employee who would take me through the application process. All the rooms in the store were huge and cavernous and highly decorated with posters, album covers, etc. All the employees (as is sort of true of the real Waterloo) kind of seemed to treat me with disdain, though I wasn't sure (and am never sure) if it was disdain about me being "free" and them being "at work," or me being a music dilettante while they were all so clearly aficionados. This new employee beckoned me behind the counter and disappeared. At least I thought he did. So I followed. I had to get down on my hands and knees to scoot through a door that had a small space at the bottom. I guessed everyone had just gotten used to it. Then I was outside behind the store with this young man, the employee (senior manager? co-owner?). It was a lovely park-like area, grass and sidewalks and big trees and people all around. We talked about me for a while, my plans. I wasn't sure what I was going to do. That part was very realistic. I blathered on for a while and he listened patiently. He was nice enough, though there was an air of that disdain to him that I mentioned earlier. At one point he went away and I noticed that ants were crawling on my leg. The more I tried to swipe them off, the more there were. Soon they were on my hand too. I thought, "These ants are trying to eat me!" And for the rest of the dream I was brushing ants off my leg, my arm, my back. At the end of the dream, another young man joined us. He was a little guy with short hair and glasses and the man who was interviewing me knew him. The new applicant came to our table and didn't say anything. The man interviewing me said, "Oh, hi, Lou." The new applicant held up his already completed application. His name was Lou Maria. I said "Hi, Lou." Lou didn't say anything. He sat down on the ground next to our table as if to have something to eat, picnic-style. He was obviously introverted and had applied for this job several times before. Then I heard him making a terrible sound. I looked down and saw that Lou had stretched himself out on the ground in such a way that he had hurt his back and was making grunting and gasping noises, unable to move or correct his position. After a second of taking this in, I asked him if he needed help, and as he was lifting his arms up toward me, I awoke.