Howl, howl, howl! —
O, you are men of stones;
Had I your tongues and eyes, I’d use them so
That heaven’s vault should crack: —
How I am is like all the rest – all the rest of us, anyway, who aren’t anesthetizing ourselves against pain with fantasies of revenge.
I went with G_____and A_____ last night to see a truly awful performance of King Lear at the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival. We left at intermission. I was hoping to be lifted out of myself a little, but it was plodding and tedious, and the direction was MIA. The worst part was that the actors kept either dropping or slurring their lines, so that a lot of the great poetry was ruined. Lear took to showing anguish by covering his face with his palms — a reasonable bit of business, except that you couldn’t understand most of what was coming out of his mouth with his hands clamped over it. It was so frustrating. For some reason I kept having the urge to stand up and shout “Open your pie hole!” I don’t know why that line should be the one that came into my head, but there you have it. It all became surreal. I felt like I was watching Lear in Finnish or something — the grand sweep of the drama is clear, and you know the story more or less, but all subtlety is lost.
The evening started out badly anyway. We were supposed to meet at Ton Kiang for supper beforehand, but I got there only to find that the restaurant was out of business — boarded up and the windows painted over. So I waited on the corner, assuming they would show up. They never did, because it occurred to them that the restaurant must have moved and they called and got the new location. For some reason, that thought never entered my mind. So I waited on the freezing cold street (it was a foggy night last night like few nights I’ve seen in San Francisco) for 40 minutes and then, miserably, went off to find myself some solitary supper before going to the theatre — where they finally did meet me.
The best part was after we decided to leave and went to find a bar and a drink. We should probably just have cut to that and saved ourselves the other trouble. We went into a rather loud and raucous pub at Masonic and Geary, just one door or so up from where I used to go to therapy with Gary Grossman, and shoved in around a little corner table (most of the cast of Lear finally dragged themselves in, looking sweaty, enervated, and rabbit-eyed, the way actors always seem to look after a performance). And then we started talking about — what else? And I had the distinct feeling that we were huddled over some secret meeting, saying things that were too subversive for anyone else to hear.
I think that’s the worst thing right now — the worst thing right now, I should say, because the worst thing keeps shifting — the feeling of being completely out of step with what the rest of the culture is thinking. Well, I usually feel that way, but I don’t usually feel I’m in danger because of what I’m thinking or saying. On the 12th a guy splashed pig’s blood over the doorway of a Muslim community center in the Mission District. An Arab Market in Noe Valley has gotten vandalized three nights in a row with garbage, broken windows, and graffiti. On the 16th, an Indian guy from Calcutta got stabbed on the street while clubbing South of Market. Last Monday night a Middle Eastern guy got stabbed during a baseball game at Pac Bell Park here — for the prosaic reason, according to witnesses. At UC Berkeley (at UC BERKELEY!!!), peace demonstrators were outnumbered and shouted down by a mob with American flags chanting “USA USA.”
And this is the Bay Area. We’re supposed to be safe from the crazies.