I’m posting this here as I post on my substack, Going Solo. Going forward I mean to post here first, sometimes adding items that won’t be posted elsewhere.
This is Going Solo. I’m here at the beginning and, if you’re reading this, so are you.
What is this? Maybe a refuge from the noise?
As the title suggests, I live alone, single, as in not married, or in some form of relationship. This state is still relatively new for me. Relatively, because I was to all intents and purposes married for forty-eight years. Why do I lead with this? Not because I think my widowed state is my most interesting or important aspect of my life, but because it’s the reality I face.
When we met I was twenty. I became who I am as we grew together. Losing that could seem like half of you is gone. But of course it isn’t. Time makes us who we are. What’s past can’t be unmade, he’s with me every day. My first reader, my audience of one.
Since his death a lot of my time has been spent trying to complete a large piece of work that was begun when he was still very much alive, a work that uses much of our history without being directly biographical.
Songbook began as a play. I saw it rehearsed by Vivian, worked with him on the text. Sitting in an empty off-Broadway theater I watched him rehearse the actors for a presentation of the play, the first step toward its production. We’d done the same before, in the same theater, and the play that came out of it, Souvenir, went on to Broadway and has since gone around the world. As he rehearsed I could see it was doubtful he’d have the strength to complete it, that his health would hold up. Unwilling to think of another director, instead I began to think how I could frame the story to tell it as a novel. All these years later it’s done. I can start new things, perhaps tell some new stories. Which is what brings us here.
Plans: (deep breath) what will be coming:
Ajax. A Joseph Conrad mash-up. Because I love Conrad’s novels, read most of them when I was in my twenties, I want to understand how he did it, how he wrote such lovely, fluid sentences. I will also record this. Because how a text is read - or is it performed? - is interesting. I plan to do more of these, including a kinda sorta Bond-ish thing. Maybe a ghost story.
Songbook. I’ll be publishing excerpts and recordings. I’ll also be revisiting other work of mine. Links to a recent solo play that I performed myself will be here. And what it was like to act it.
The Writing on the Stairs. Where I live in. This is part of the garden on a lucky day in 2020. Yes, those are pugs.
The house was probably begun in 1831. Probably, because I don’t really know. The names are written in pencil on the underneath of the main staircase, the one rising steeply from the front door to the second story, with treads that are shorter and higher than today’s code, built that way to make it fit a space that wasn’t quite long enough: Orpah Martin, sixteen, and her sister, whose name I can’t yet make out. In 1865 they cleared out the house. I guess that’s when the Martins moved in? Who was here before? There’s the ruins of a fieldstone foundation just up the hill. What was that? For a time, before it was subdivided this place was called Sunnyside Farm. Who built what I call the heartbreak walls on the hill behind? Now in ruins from frost heaves and falling trees, the walls were built stone by stone to enclose pastures when this was a dairy farm. Heartbreak because of the amount of backbreaking labor they represent.
Those walls are all over this part of the northern Catskills, built after the mountains were clear-cut. The native hemlocks were split for the first corduroy roads, hemlock because it doesn’t rot in water. And for the local tanning and glass-making industries. Now the cows have gone and trees have grown back, though not hemlocks, instead we have white pine and maples. I know something of the people who lived here, and want to find out more. Harry, the local stone guy who recently came to work on drainage, reckons that the house was likely built on the site of a small bluestone quarry - another local industry that’s gone.
I’ve done the married thing. Moving forward I want to see what it’s like to be single.
So, good luck. And as they say, watch this space.