Not Really The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year.

Loss. All the other things that make the holiday season miserable — crowded stores and mobbed airports and bus stations, horrible shrill music everywhere, a dozen competing agendas and expectations and travel schedules that you have to somehow make work together, etc. — all those things are just amplifying factors; the heart of the sadness, the depression people feel, is abandonment. This time of year doesn’t make people feel awful until at some point it has changed. Your grandmother moved too far away and can’t come anymore, your uncle and aunt got divorced, someone had a falling out, you moved, someone died, Santa Claus turned out to be a lie.

The first really sad Christmas I remember was when I was I guess 21, my first year not in school, I made very little money and couldn’t afford the airfare. I don’t remember what I did that year, but it was not sitting around the tree for hours with my family listening to the Nutcracker, drinking egg nog and eating shrimp cocktail, and opening presents. My memory is fading, but I think there were two Christmases around that time in my life when I didn’t go home to Indiana.

“Home for Christmas” is not an expression I use anymore. The house where my parents lived since the mid-80s is not any of the houses I grew up in, but I thought of it in some sense as home, or it was one of the places I thought of as home — there have been many and sometimes none — but now that my mother is gone, every year it’s less home and more the house where my father lives alone. We’ll spend most of our visit at my sister’s family’s home, where I feel very much “at home,” but not “home.”

Not that any of these feelings are inappropriate to the season. The weeks leading up to the end of December are marked in different ways in different traditions, but the common thread is as ancient as humanity: we watch with dread and mourning the days grow shorter, the nights get longer. We are alone, abandoned by the sun, and we hope against hope that it will come back. When it does, we celebrate. Everything turns around. No more sadness. A new beginning. Of course we always knew it would come back, but the world still feels so empty, so bleak, until it does.

The trouble with all the other losses — your childhood house, Santa Claus, my mother — is that they are not so temporary. So the Christmas season has become less a vigil for the return of the sun than a reminder of everything that's gone long gone.

Thoughts On Kevin Spacey.

I want to say first that I have very mixed and hard to pin down feelings about men joining the #metoo movement. Sexual harassment and assault obviously don’t happen exclusively to women. But there’s something in this moment that I think is about women’s experience, about revealing to us all a particular experience that women have in common, as a gender. So something rubs me the wrong way about so many men sharing their #metoo stories. Still, it’s complicated, and, like I said, I’m not at all confident about my feelings here.

But I want to write about homophobia and how I think there’s room for a great deal more subtlety and depth in examining how it is at work in the reactions to Anthony Rapp’s story and Kevin Spacey’s reaction to it. I am heartbroken for them both.

The thrust of the reaction in the LGBT media and community has been immediate condemnation along the lines of “We’ve been struggling forever to convince straight people that gay men are not child molesters, and you come along and tell them that in fact we are.”

But from where I sit, it looks like it is the LGBT community and media who are telling people that, not Spacey.

As recounted by Rapp, Spacey’s behavior that night was harassment, exploitation, and — depending on how you interpret the whole lying on top of him part of the story — possibly even assault. But Rapp was 14. He was not a child. Though this view is hardly universal, I personally think that an adult having sex with a 14-year-old, even with consent, is wrong for all kinds of reasons, but it is not pedophilia. If we don’t want straight people to think gay men are pedophiles, don’t say we are when we’re not.

On one level, this is an object lesson in the danger of respectability politics. It’s understandable how gun shy we are around the issue of children. When you’re called a child molester your whole life, you become incredibly self-conscious about it and you want to dig as wide a moat around it as you can to be sure you don’t get near it, you want to define it as broadly as possible to make sure you're the first and loudest to condemn it.

Of course, much of the LGBT community have resented Kevin Spacey for decades because he refused to publicly reveal his queerness, and, as so often happens when a closeted famous person is outed, the community is howling with gleeful derision. One thing, maybe the only thing, LGBT people share is the psychologically, emotionally, spiritually damaging experience of the closet. Yet there is so little empathy shown in these cases. I’ve always wondered about the causes of this ugly gay mob behavior: is it just that human trait of loving to see a successful person knocked off their pedestal?

I wish stories like these could be moments to teach straight people about how the closet distorts everything, for life. How shame corrodes our spirits. How scarred we are. Kevin Spacey is a man dealing badly, and very publicly, with the explosion of an aspect of his life that was out of control and which now seems to threaten every other part of his life. The closet is cancer. I feel deeply for him.

If this is a community that doesn’t have room for the most damaged among us, then I’m ashamed of my community.

Hugh Hefner.

I love watching the arc of the response when a big culture maker like Hugh Hefner dies. First the lionization (he was a god!), then the backlash (he was a monster!), then there’s room for something more balanced while the two sides continue to fight it out.

Whatever you think of him, it’s hard to imagine someone more culturally influential than Hugh Hefner. Or more peculiarly American. You see his influence everywhere, for good and bad. What creates such a phenomenon, what is it about a person at a particular moment in history that makes that happen? These are the questions I become obsessed with.

I start with the idea that people (men mostly?) have a bottomless appetite for erotic images, erotic talk, erotic thoughts, but historically various social controls (church/traditional morality and taboos, marriage) pushed back against indulging that appetite. This is just true, right?

Then comes the so-called sexual revolution of the second half of the 20th century, which is inextricably linked to the kind of mass commercialization of sexuality Hefner pioneered. Is it even possible to think of the successes of the women’s movement (relaxing of sex roles, women as the agents of their own sex lives, normalization of birth control…) without the new frankness about sex that Playboy sold? Or gay rights, same question?

Hefner took something it was obvious men wanted and sold it, and changed the world. The world-changing aspect of it was not accidental. He didn't just sell pictures of naked ladies. Along with the sexual images, he sold the new world in which it was possible to consume those images without shame.

Is it an American phenomenon, that it takes commercializing something to ease old taboos? Does it really come down to, “If I can make money off it, it must be okay.”? Are Americans willing to leave anything unexamined if it comes with a Horatio Alger story?

Put bluntly: On one hand Hefner ushered in the ubiquity in media of images of women as ideal and willing sex objects (and all the attendant distortions for men and boys regarding expectations and consent). On the other hand, he played a big part in relaxing the shame associated with female and homosexual desire (which contributed to a massive social and legal shift for the better for women and gay people). Is it possible to extricate one from the other? 

Just some thoughts.

Looking Back.

My friend J, J who was the first, true lasting friend I made in New York, who was in my class at Parsons and at the end of the first semester asked me to share her apartment on East 10th St. and we lived there together for 2 years until I fell in an ill-fated love and she went to Berlin (but kept the apartment even as the neighborhood around it more or less left; she still has that apartment) but who I fell out of touch with when I left New York in 1998 — we’d seen less and less of each other for several years before that because, well, I could list all the practical excuses I’ve cataloged in my head to make sense of the painful process of shifting alliances that happens over and over in a life, but why?

Now we are in touch again, and she’s commissioned me to write some text, an essay?, for a chapbook that she will print and publish to accompany an exhibit of her prints in Chicago where she lives and teaches now this fall. The text is to resonate with, respond to though not necessarily explicitly with the work she is showing. (She still makes visual art. I, you know, do not.) The prints span her career. One set is a series of drawings she made in 1984 in the process of working out a large installation. One set is a series of drawings in response to a large installation she made in the mid-90s.(I call them drawings -- they are monoprints.) A third set is current work.

This thing I’m writing, which I hesitate to call an essay because it is impressionistic, episodic, takes the shape of a review of our friendship (so of course it is meandering and disjointed). I’ve pulled out her letters to me spanning the mid-80s through the early 90s, half a lifelong conversation about what’s important, what we yearn for our lives to be, what we want our work to be about, the shape we want our lives to take, and I compare those hopes with how our lives actually look now. We are both still artists. That in itself is remarkable to me and something to be proud of regardless of whatever other dreams I’ve fallen short of. It was certainly never the most likely outcome, statistically speaking, but I never had any doubt and I doubt J did either.


Between this project and my high school diary musical, which are the two big things on my desk right now, my writing life is thick with memory. Late 70s in Indiana, 80s in New York. It feels like judgement day up in here. When I dive into the past — I shouldn’t say dive because I more or less live there — my favorite game seems to be finding things I feel uneasy or guilty about or ashamed of and to pick them apart, to confess, and try to, if not absolve myself, understand. But, yes, absolve myself of.

It all, all of it, has the slightly queasy-making quality of a retrospective, which I supposed I should embrace. I am not done, but I am on the cusp of a new phase, I really believe. The work I am doing now is stronger, more vivid, more truthful, more true, than ever. I am 56 years old and have, as they say, zero fucks to give. A look back is appropriate. And then forward.

Life Has Purpose.

I'm embarrassed that I've let 4 months go by without blogging. Four months!

My most valid and hopefully persuasive excuse is that I'm deep into writing a new show. Not that I'm furiously writing every second and couldn't have taken a few minutes now and then to blog, but that the energy of a new project, the mental and emotional state it requires, or maybe not so much requires but creates, distorts things around it, one of those being my sense of what else I should be doing. Sitting, staring into space is so much more compelling than really anything else. (I note that lately C, more frequently than usual, says things to me like "What's wrong?" or "Are you upset about something?" to which I say, "No, I'm just in my head.")

This new thing, I've probably mentioned it a few times here, is the musical I'm writing based on my high school diary. It took me a while to get oriented in it, to get some traction, but now it's cooking. I have written six songs, five of which I think are very strong, and the sixth might be great as well but I'm less confident about that one. (It is sung by a character that has been, is, I think always will be, trickier. He's a deeply unsympathetic character who I'm asking the audience to empathize with. And that empathy is kind of key to the whole thing.)

The overall shape of the show (working title is "Jack" -- my middle name and the name I was called until I left home for college) is still a bit wild and woolly but that's not as worrisome as it was a few months ago. As I work and as the story takes shape, I keep a list of "Things I Can Do Now," practical tasks like "write the song that goes there," or "write a monolog about so-and-so" and I feel good if there are 6 or 8 things on that list. When the list gets short, that's when I start to worry that maybe I'm not sure what the piece is about yet.

This show might have a female character, I'm not sure yet, but it's about boys, about men, and I'm enjoying that quite a bit, since the two other projects that have occupied so much of my time and energy for the last few years, LIZZIE and the Hester Prynne musical, are all about women. I'm sure you all know how much I love writing about women, for women, women's stories ... but men are pretty interesting, too.

And, though my own life has always played at least some part in all my writing it has often been buried, especially in the adaptations like LIZZIE and Hester, it's exhilarating --and liberating in a self-mortification way -- to be doing this explicitly autobiographical work. I can just tell the story.

So I feel energized, excited. Life has purpose.

Opposite, Both True.

I have to say I was shocked to read the New York Times's huffy review of the new Sam Gold revival of The Glass Menagerie this morning because my experience of it was so deep and powerful -- and so intimate -- that I couldn't get my head around the notion that anyone in that room could have had such a different experience. It was hard for me to imagine anyone thinking that Gold altered or tinkered with or did violence to Tennessee Williams's play. To me, this production revealed the play.

But that's just how it works, I guess. Other critics described something more in line with what I saw.

Though, as an artist, I know how personally wounding a negative review can be, when it comes to other people's work, a polarized response makes me much more interested to see something than universal praise. (I didn't really have much interest in seeing Hamilton until the backlash started which made me think there was something interesting there after all. Yes, I'm still entering that damn lottery every. single. day.)

I keep reminding myself of this as the reviews of the London production of LIZZIE roll in. Depending on whom you believe, it is either "loud, messy, and incoherent" or it is "the greatest American musical since Sweeney Todd." The critics are just about evenly split between hating it and loving it, with not much in between. It is a roller-coaster. But if this weren't my work and I were just somebody reading reviews, this would be the show I would be dying to see.

All of which is to say that the (to my mind, clueless) Times review of The Glass Menagerie pissed me off, but on the other hand left me reassured that I'm in good company.

I Fell In Love Last Night.

For Christmas I got C tickets to the new revival of Sunday in the Park with George. The not-really-a-gift-because-it's-for-me-too-ness of it was somewhat mitigated by the fact that I've never really liked this show. It is musical theater apostacy, but I was never -- except for the Gypsy and West Side Story lyrics and maybe a dozen songs that I think are absolutely sublime and most of them are from Company -- never really much of a Sondheim lover. All those jagged melodies, and the always sort of cool, highbrow take on the subject at hand, and here's another word that rhymes with that, and here's another, and another. And another. Sunday in the Park with George always felt like the embodiment of everything I didn't respond to in Sondheim's work.

I am happy to report that it was I who was full of shit. In the middle of the first act, just when I'm thinking "what is this show about? is anything going to actually happen?," the lights focus in on George sitting downstage left, the orchestra gets quiet,  it's the end of the song, and he sings
Look I made a hat
Where there never was a hat 
I couldn't breathe for a second. From that moment till the end I was either weeping or on the verge of it. This show that I always said I didn't know what it was about was suddenly about everything I've ever cared about in my life. I knew it was about art, but I never felt how it was about art till last night.

(One big revelation for me was learning that Putting it Together is a song about fundraising. I guess I'd never listened closely to the lyrics, but I always thought it was a song about the artistic process. I know, duh, I'm probably the last person on earth that didn't know that. It didn't resonate when I first encountered the song -- I wasn't so battered and bruised by decades of negotiating the relationship between art and money.)

Maybe it's just because I'd never seen a production of the show, or maybe because this cast make what I think is overcomplicated music emotionally straightforward. Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford both give really clear, simple performances that were at times heartbreaking. The simplicity of the staging also threw the emotional arc into relief.

I love having something new to be a fan of. What's next? God forbid, Into the Woods?

Cowboy Mouth/LIZZIE.

In the last week or so I’ve had 2 separate, different dreams in which I am walking around someplace public wearing no pants, and I haven’t forgotten to wear pants or lost them or had them taken away from me but, in both dreams, I have deliberately put together a pantsless outfit to wear, and the dreams mostly consists of my effort to commit to the decision, to tamp down my discomfort, to pull it off. In the first dream, several days ago, I was walking down the street; in the second dream, last night, I was at work, maybe in a restaurant but the setting is vague.

Tonight I'll be on a redeye to London with my friend Tim for the U.K. premiere of the musical we began devising almost 27 years ago. T and I have made lots of theater together in the years since, but LIZZIE was our first collaboration. It spans the length of our friendship. It nearly spans the length of my career, and, since about 10 years ago when we resurrected the old one-act we'd put aside after a short run in the early 90s, began rethinking the book and adding not only a bunch of new songs but a third writer, our friend Alan, it has come to sort of be my career, at least in the eyes of people who haven't known me long. I am one of the writers of LIZZIE. "Have you met Steven? He's one of the writers of LIZZIE." I guess it's a function of how long musicals take to develop, but people ask me now "How's LIZZIE going?" in the same way they would ask someone, "So how's work?"

We always talk about the various LIZZIE influences, the great rock women, Heart, the Runaways, etc. But I was thinking this morning that even deeper in the DNA is the Sam Shepard/Patti Smith play, Cowboy Mouth. I was obsessed with this play in the early 80s, and I directed a production of it when I was in college, briefly, in Indiana in 1983. Cowboy Mouth is literally about yearning for redemption by rock and roll savior:
"In the old days, they had Jesus and them guys. His words don't shake through us anymore. We created rock 'n' roll in our image -- it's our child -- a new savior, rockin' toward Bethlehem to be born. God was selfish. He kept himself hidden. You gotta be a performer."
Here's a beautiful recent clip of Patti Smith:

And there's this:

Dialing It Back.

I'm reading Christopher Isherwood's 60s Diaries. In 1961, he's living in Southern California, obsessively watching the Cold War ramp up, tension is high in Berlin (famously his home in the 1930s), people in the U.S. are building fallout shelters, everyone is anxious about nuclear war. He writes: "I must lay off the newspapers. The newspaper reader dies many times before his death, the nonreader not nearly so often."

I installed a Chrome plugin that blocks Facebook from 9:30 to 5. It had to be done. The election last year and the chaos unleashed since had me on Facebook all the time, compulsively scrolling, reading articles, linking to stuff, poring over everyone else's fear, over and over and over. On one hand, I was reading a lot of good stuff, keeping hyper-informed, learning about new things in detail, figuring out my own stances on important issues, answers to important questions. I don't regret any of that. But it was too much, way too much. I can get more information than it is possible to digest in a couple hours Internet time in the morning, and then I can catch up in the evening. More than adequate.

It's been one full week now, and in that time I've returned to my many years neglected meditation practice, I've written in my journal at length every day, I'm reading much more than I had been able to for some time, and I've made measurable progress on the musical piece I'm writing based on my high school diary. I had been doing all these things (except meditating) all along, but now I do them with a clearer mind, more focus, and for longer periods of time, every day.

It feels like a good balance. I toyed with the idea of a total Facebook break, but I didn't want to give up contact with the many friends and family I don't keep in touch with in other ways, the flow of news and information from various sources that keeps me engaged and informed. I don't want to lose touch. But I also don't want to lose my mind.

Life Goals.

As you might know, we started licensing LIZZIE last year to, well, anybody in the U.S. who wants to do it, provided they can pay the minimum advance, which we set reasonably low because we want people to be able to afford to produce it. So far, we’ve licensed the show to a couple dozen or so theater companies and I think two colleges, all over the U.S.

My favorite so far (I know that’s really impolitic to say that, but I’m just being honest) is not even a full production. We made an exception to the standard and pretty much non-negotiable terms of our license agreement and gave permission to a high school theater department in Iowa for 4 girls to sing a cutting from the show in competition in a speech meet. Today the instructor emailed us to ask for permission for one more performance because the group of girls placed high and has been selected to perform at the state competition in Ames, Iowa.

I can’t think of anything in my whole career that has made me more proud. I am not joking. Maybe it’s because I’m so immersed right now in my own adolescence because I’m writing a show about it and a big part of my high school years was theater and speech, or maybe it's because the election last year made crystal clear how deeply woman-hating our culture and politics are and I'm obsessed with the way that distorts women's voices and obsessed with the possibility of finally changing that, but the thought of high school girls singing LIZZIE, our little smash-the-patriarchy musical, in a state-level speech competition in Iowa is beyond moving. Beyond.

The Future.

Everyone I know is so sad and angry.

It’s the same feeling that I had as a kid that when someone in the room was in a bad mood (well, I say “someone,” but what I mean is my mother), that it was my fault. The fact that American democracy is in peril is maybe not my fault, but it certainly is, if the word democracy has any meaning, my responsibility, and what actually is the difference?

I am sad and angry, too. Sometimes I feel like I can hardly breathe. I remember days after 9/11, I was on the phone with a dear friend in New York and she was saying that she had the TV on all day watching video of the planes crash into the towers over and over and she couldn't stop crying. I said, "Turn the TV off!" (I was, thankfully, living off the grid at the time.) But now I find myself compulsively checking Facebook, reading the same dismal news over and over and getting more and more scared and tense. Facebook for years for me has been the way I keep in touch with friends, the news, politics yes but in some kind of proportion until last year's election got underway. Now it's all bad shit 24/7, it just feels like wallowing in despair. I feel the urge to unplug from it, but then I'd lose touch with people I love and I'd miss the building community of resistance that I think is crucial right now. I'm afraid of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

In my most angry moments I think, “Who the fuck cares? I’m going to be gone in 20 or 30 years. I gave it my best and now everything is completely fucked and I’m tired and fed up with the whole shit show.” But then I imagine the faces of my beautiful nephews and my beautiful niece and my heart splits wide open. What will their lives be like? The feeling that I have no confidence it will not be unimaginably horrific is nearly unbearable.

I think I’d been sort of bopping along for a while believing I was leaving a world for them better than the one I found. Maybe I’d relaxed into thinking that since I had spent decades protesting, complaining, resisting, and dissenting, and my efforts had had some kind of effect, some measurable success, that maybe it was safe to not be quite so angry all the time, to not always have to be quite so vigilant, to not always have to swim against the current, that maybe the status quo wasn’t perfect but I could live with it because it had so noticeably improved in my lifetime, and was obviously on a path to continue in that direction.

Not so obvious now.

Thoughts On Hairspray.

We gave up our cable TV a couple weeks ago. So far, it's going well. I miss NY1, but not too much -- I get most of my local news lately from neighborhood blogs I read every day.

I did feel pretty left out Thursday morning, though, reading everyone's responses on Facebook to the NBC live broadcast of Hairspray. It's just an ego thing, but I hate being late to these of-the-moment conversations, especially about art. It was available last night to stream online, so C and I watched it, and now I'll add my two cents to the day-old conversation, because you know I have to have an opinion on everything.

As everyone is saying, this is the best one yet. There was no where to go but up after that Sound of Music, but C and I both loved Christopher Walken's performance in Peter Pan, was that two years ago? The Wiz? I don't know, that show doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me, but I will admit to a chip on my shoulder about adaptations of The Wizard of Oz in general.

So, Hairspray. I know you're not supposed to lead with the negative criticism, but there were a couple technical things that I'm sure colored my feelings about the production. One, I know they have to have commercials, but all those interstitial bits with Darren Criss were total mood-killers. Still, if that's what it takes to get live musical theater on TV, then I'll go along with it.

But the sound? I hesitate to make this criticism because I know I'm old and losing my hearing, and to be honest I have this problem almost always when I see musical theater that has electric bass and drums, I just can't hear the vocals very well and miss most of the lyrics in big loud songs. But C was having the same problem, so I wonder if it was a sound mix issue. The vocals seemed often completely buried, until Jennifer Hudson sang. But, on the other hand, not a single review I read the next day mentioned it, so maybe I'm crazy.

But Jennifer Hudson. C and I were sitting there grousing a bit during one of those interminable breaks (you can't fast-forward when you stream from NBC), and then she started singing I Know Where I've Been and our attention locked onto the screen. Good god almighty, that's how you deliver an 11 o'clock number. I forgot every negative thought I had had up to that point and to the end of the show I was completely hooked, completely sold. By the time they got to You Can't Stop the Beat, I was nearly in tears from the exuberance, that choreography, the absolute simple rightness of the message.

Things I loved:

1) The dancing. The show is about dancing, and this production delivered. One of my greatest pleasures in life is watching Broadway chorus kids do their thing. I'm in awe every time.

2) Kristin Chenoweth: she is insane, right? I don't mean insanely talented (which of course she is) but like just insane.

3) I loved the set, too, with all the tributes to John Waters' Baltimore.

4) And Harvey Fierstein is an absolute hero of our time. We should wake up every day and say, "Thank you, Harvey Fierstein."

The show kind of works no matter where you come to it from, but to a John Waters fan it's remarkable how very different the musical is from the original film yet retains in such pure form what's great about it. If Waters reveled in all that trash ("The rats on the street all dance round my feet") to be provocative, it was to provoke people into realizing that there's beauty there, and love, and innocence, and strength, and humor, and that the real trash is in the hearts of mean, narrow-minded, prejudiced people.

A Better World Is Still Possible.

So many people I love are grief-stricken, not sleeping, disoriented, afraid, crying a lot. It feels almost unbearable.

I've been trying to recall how long it was before the 2001 terrorist attacks came to be known as "9/11." Because I haven't know what to call what happened on Tuesday. For now, I'll just call it "Tuesday." Tuesday shares with 9/11 a sudden sense of immediate danger, uncertainty, a reminder that we are targets, that we are not safe. Within the space of a few minutes, the world changed irrevocably and we are traumatized.

It occurs to me that maybe Tuesday was such a blow because we had grown to have unreasonable expectations. Things were going so well. After electing Obama 8 years ago and having in the White House someone who resembled


, someone who imagined a better world like the better world


imagined, who, though he couldn't make everything better in 8 years, at least understood the questions, expressed easy sympathy with our struggles, we thought the world was changing faster than it actually was. Working for a more just world turned into expecting a more just world in our lifetimes. How selfish we were.

I wonder if the only way out of this awful sadness it to recommit to the work of making a better world, not because it's possible to make things better for us, but because a better world is possible.

Who Are We Fighting?

I'm trying to avoid war metaphors this morning. And failing.

How is this not the same battle I've been fighting ever since kindergarten when someone called me a girl? Or 5th grade when a bunch of boys called me a queer because I liked art class? I barely remember a time before it was me against some bully, some asshole, some idiot, until I got older and learned that it was actually me and a bunch of similarly marginalized and infinitely more interesting and usually kinder people against a whole raft of assholes and their institutions built to keep us out.

I didn't ask to be left out, but, if I had been, it's the tribe I would have chosen. Life was always more creative, more loving, more loaded with possibility, at the margins. I was not uncomfortable as a dissident.

But, in the last several years, big changes began to roll through, practically unannounced. Queer lives became more visible, less threatened, more normal. I got married, and my conservative Southern in-laws cried and danced at my wedding. Hope was palpable. I was not without hope before, but it was always distant and abstract. So though I know that all these struggles are not identical or even always aligned, the easing of persecution of queer people ran, to my eyes, parallel to the easing of persecution of other minorities, and it began, not even really consciously, to seem possible to be fully who I am and also welcome and safe in much of the larger world.

It began to seem possible.

All the solemn testimony this morning that it's time to come together, "reach across the aisle," recognize our common humanity, strikes me as willfully obtuse. This election was about a large segment (a little less than half) of the American population telling us explicitly that they do not want to come together. Some of them I'm sure would bristle at that characterization and insist that everyone is welcome in their new world order, and that may be true, but only in their bullshit "love the sinner" sense. They have set the terms under which we are welcome, and those terms are unacceptable.

This morning I feel paralyzed. This rage against a bigoted, ignorant majority feels like putting on my favorite sweater, but what's different from before is that I don't know exactly who the enemy is. It's not just the 5th grade boys anymore, if it ever was. When I look at poll data that shows significant percentages of every demographic group (men, women, people at all education levels, minorities of all kinds, all age groups) supporting a racist woman-hating demagogue for president, I realize the enemy could be almost anyone. Maybe that's the first task, to find out who they are.

In the meantime, all 3 branches of the federal government will very soon be controlled by the party that created and either sincerely or cynically (does it matter which?) campaigned for this authoritarian bigot who wants to burn the house down. So I won't be reaching across the aisle. I'll be doing what I can to offer love and comfort to my tribe. And I'll be watching my back.


Mom raised me to know that we were the kind of people who read the newspaper every day. Or, I should say, we were not the kind of people who did not read the newspaper every day.

I was going to say that lately I've been thinking of Mom every day -- meaning, because of the election, etc. -- but I was already thinking of her every day, so... What is new is that I've been craving her take on what Barbara Kingsolver called "this misogynistic horror show."

I miss her company, our constant, wide-ranging, and now unfinished, conversation.

Just out of high school, Mom was working as a secretary when she and my dad got married. She stayed home for the dozen or so years when her kids were small (I guess you could say she chose to "not work," if by not working you mean running the whole damn show) and got a job again as soon as my sister started school. There were many brilliant, talented, dynamic women in my life as a kid, but my mother was an up-close every day example of why women should be in charge. She was and is my touchstone for almost every question I've faced. We didn't always agree, but I always knew she was wiser than I was.

Her spirit is especially present these days as we negotiate this minefield of woman-hating. Some moments I feel deeply depressed that we still have to live with this bullshit. Other moments I feel motivated that it has been so starkly revealed what work there is still to do. You have to drive the cockroaches out of the wall so you can kill them. But always I thank the Fates for the lessons my mother taught me about women.

I don't want to say that it feels unfair, because what does fairness have to do with these things?, but it's very hard for me to accept the fact that Mom died just short of being able to vote in this election. My mother, who married at 18 and never went to college but taught me nearly everything important that I know, who taught me how sexism works and why it's bad, what feminism is and why it's essential, and who instilled in me a reverence for the act of voting.


This place sounds great, and I can't wait to try it.

When we were in Denmark 2 years ago for the opening of LIZZIE at Fredericia Teater, we (the writers and director) were treated to a once-in-a-lifetime meal at Ti Trin Ned. Chef Mette Gassner personally served us dinner. It was unexpected and unforgettable.

We also had a couple of more traditional Scandanavian meals, one I particularly enjoyed was at a lunch place on the harbor, nice but not fancy) where we ate the traditional lunch of dark bread with various cured or smoked or otherwise preserved meats and fish, and pickled vegetables. Delicious. I love that kind of meal. It reminds me of dinners at Grandma Lenore's apartment where, if she prepared a meal at all, she might open a can of smoked oysters or sardines, a jar of cheese spread, some dense rye bread or crackers, pickles.

But my inner Andy Rooney perked up when I read this:
Dinner menu will have just 15 dishes, each of which will cost no more than $16. They won’t be full entree-sized, but they won’t be super small either. People should expect to order between three and five of them, depending on how hungry they are.
I'm not such a fan of the "small plates" thing. One, you have no idea what small means. And two, it's great if everyone you're dining with is as adventurous as you, wants to have a communal experience, and likes ordering a bunch of stuff, especially the weird thing on the menu "just to try it." But if you're not with that group, it means you either have to figure out how to share some things with some people, or not, or default to the choices of the pickiest eater in the group.