Took In…

a show the night before last with Gary and his playwright friend Stan — Kenward Elmslie’s musical revue “Lingoland.” It was one of the New Yorkiest audiences I’ve ever been a part of.

I adore Kenward Elmslie. He’s got the rare quality, both in person and in poem, of being both dignified and effervescent. And I can relate to him and his sensibility more than I can to most poets’. I mean sure, when I was a child I read “The ABC of Reading” like all other incipient postmodernists, but what really gave me pleasure was to listen to the radio station that played show tunes. I recorded one Busby Berkeley number I especially loved with my crappy cassette recorder and listened to it over and over again. It’s still one of my favorite songs, and a couple of years ago I sang it on Jim Behrle’s blog. Those who know me know that I’m fond of saying I’m an older gay man trapped in a woman’s body. More accurately, I feel like there’s a mini-Kenward inside me trying to express himself, if only I had the skill.

You know, I never understood why it is that people say that musicals are unrealistic. If I had my way, why (harp intro) (maracas) it would be a musical all the time! The great thing is that Gary seems to feel this way, too, although he doesn’t like the kitschy American stuff I like, and we spend a lot of time making up goofy songs to sing to each other about very casual daily things, sort of like “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” or the guy pumping gas in “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.” Now that was a movie.

Given all these predilections, you’d think I would have loved “Lingoland.” But I didn’t. I mean, I loved some of it — all the songs and poems of Kenward’s, some of the interthreaded poems recited by the other actors, the visuals by Joe Brainard!, and several of the songs, notably the unforgettable “Who’ll Prop Me up in the Rain?” which reaches a new apex of black humor. And there is no doubt that the cast was impeccably and rigorously trained in voice and movement and other thespian skills, But in a way, that was the problem — this sort of polished modern Broadway interpretation of material that should have been nothing but retro. The slickness was just wrong, and the ballads, even if they did move me against my will, were slickly cheesy. There was too much drama school where there should have been more, I don’t know, Jack Smith. A weird feeling — to have such a divided response to a piece. Usually I’d feel a blander ambivalence.

One nice thing is that it made me want to sing. Does anyone feel like being in a musical? Shall we make a musical?

Our Kids are Really GOING PLACES

There was an in-depth article about this in the NY Times. Here’s the microversion from the free paper AM New York:

Breast milk found to contain rocket fuel

A toxic component of rocket fuel called perchlorate is contaminating “virtually all” samples of women’s breast milk, researchers at Texas Tech University have reported. Although the contaminant, which originates mostly at defense industry plants, previoiusly had been detected in food and water around the country, this study was the first to investigate breast milk. Problems associated with the chemicl can impair brain development in fetuses and infants.
(LA Times)


A group blog that was also a scarf, I think a watermelon color with kind of aheavy woven waffle texture, like a kitchen towel– mainly admisstered (a typo, but I’ll leave it, because I just woke up and my subconscious is still ruling) by Ron, but also Marianne and my mom. The scarf was divided into rectangular segments where each blogger would post a question with space for answers by the scarf blog community. The questions: “Do enjoy (indulge in?) Hindu go-go dancing?” (or was it “Hindu astrology go-go dancing?”), “Are you a pagan Queen?” (this was addressed specifically to Anne Waldman and Cecilia Vicuna — not, I noted with irritation, to me.) Lots more questions I can’t remember. Anyway, the cool thing about the scarf was that it was totally wireless. When someone responded to a question or posted a new question, it appeared on the scarf immediately. So… are cybertextiles the way of the future?

I was truly enjoying this dream. I wish I could remember more of it, and also that I could have slept a little longer to experience it a little more.

I love “postmodern” garments — you know, that lay bare the device or “leave the dirt clinging to the roots.” Grunge was the best. I adore unfinished hems, assymmetry, and bizarre combinations of shapes and fabrics.

But MUCH more so than in poetry — for I never subscribed to the notion that you must “learn your chops before you can deconstruct” a poem — I feel that I dare not attempt such outrageous sewing maneuvers before I’ve learned to do the most basic things, like put in a demure and unobtrusive zipper, or make a buttonhole.


Gary will attest to my mania (reawakened from my teenage thriftshop days) for vintage fabrics. I’m spending hours on eBay trawling for them. I particularly like “novelty” fabrics that represent something (which may, in fact, speak to my poetics, but I’ll leave that to my readers to decide). I used to have an amazing collection of clothes with pictures on them — a dress of black & white sailboats, a sleeveless blouse with rulers and measuring tape and scissors, a skirt of cartoon roosters, an aloha shirt with bulls and matadors. Oh, and the skirt with the major inventions (record players, compasses) — including the year they were invented! Most of these clothes have gone the way of ??? — but I still have a good but small collection of 60s cotton skirts with the following prints:

Japanese temples
a moody beach scene with dunes and sea grass
Greek ruins (all blues and greens)
big Chinese vases in dramatic gold and turquoise on a black background

there are probably some more I can’t remember right now because it’s winter and all my summer stuff is in storage. But I’ve long been possessed of a kind of an anxiety that this kind of garment is disappearing, and I’ll never be able be able to get it any more. Recently I gave up bidding on the PERFECT polished cotton skirt with Egyptian designs on it because it went over $50 — and it seemed insane to me to pay that much considering that I never paid more than, say, $15 for any of the abovementioned items. Of course, I’ve found my own solution. I am going to make them myself.

Projects in the works include:

a skirt of gray and moss-green dinosaurs — gray green muslin ruffle underskirt — trimmed with green velvet ribbon

a “Persian vase” print a-line skirt

A wrap skirt of turquoise teapots

(please oh please let me win this auction: the circus fabric — in three small panels — to make a bag)

and of course, the necktie skirt


A passion to — if not master it, at least get competent!

Wanting to sit like an idiot and fondle trims, all day, examine the way fabrics drape. Those filmy dupatta fabrics in the Pakistani shops — incredible colors — just TWO DOLLARS a yard — layered, they are the stuff of dreams. When will I be able to work with them, cut them on the bias, drape them so they flutter?

So far I’m entirely autodidacted out of a book and from following patterns. But I’m starving to learn.

When making a garment, you really need to finish and secure the inside seams.

Not so in making a poem. In a way, you almost want it to fray.

You consider yourself very lucky if anyone actually WANTS to turn it inside out.

I find it quite remarkable that this piece appeared in the NY Times about a week after I completed my first sewing venture in years — a skirt made out of a fabulous $10 discount store jacquard curtain and edged with curtain tassels (scroll down to see my brave effort). I wonder, am I flattering myself to observe the extent to which I have my finger on the pulse of the moment?

Is That a Tapestry You’re Wearing?


Published: February 8, 2005

Last year’s fall collections were full of tweeds. Now designers are tearing down the curtains, making use of decorators’ fabrics with a fervor that would do Scarlett O’Hara or Maria von Trapp proud.

Fabrics more commonly found in the castles of the Loire Valley or a conference room at the Hilton – thick gold chenille, tapestry-weight brocades, wallpaper prints – have turned up in several of the fall 2005 collections shown so far.