Friday, March 5, 2010

Gandolf, Shakespeare, and Keats, Oh My!

Proof my life is complete.

Daniel (our resident 4-year-old) at Kenwood House

Me sitting under Keats' plum tree, obviously receiving poetic inspiration.

It has been a very busy week and it is definitely time for an update. Monday was pretty chill. After dinner Cam and I decided it was time to get away from the estrogen-fest for a few hours so we decided to go see a show. Cam hadn't seen 39 Steps yet, and I was needing a lighthearted play (plus better seats than last time) so we decided to see it. We had some time so we went to Lilywhites, which is a six-story sports store. It was pretty awesome, and there were lots of things on sale, so I left with a new shirt and a pair of crappy but good looking shoes (all for thirteen bucks). The play was as fantastic and funny as it was the first time, even more so because I could see the three or four things I had missed from the first go around.

The two plays I hit up later were both very depressing and very well done. The first one was Waiting for Godot which I saw with Cam and Mary on Tuesday night. Starring in the play was none other than Ian McKellen, world-famous Shakespeare actor even better known in America for his roles in cult-creating film trilogies, working as Gandolf (Lord of the Rings) and Magneto (X-Men). Godot is a play about two men that are, well, waiting for Godot. Not much is explained, and not a whole lot even happens, but the idea was interesting. The two men are visited by Potso (huge, bipolar man) and Lucky (crazy man who Potso has captured and forced to carry his things). I won't give away much plot in case you get the chance to go see it, but it's more what the play invokes mentally than what happens. Cam hated it, and said it was a knock on his religion. It definitely was on one level. However, after a phenomenal class last semester picking apart and taking on nihilistic theories, I had a lot to think about. Thinking about it from the perspective of Nietzsche is particularly interesting, but that already sounds pompous and uppity enough, so I'll just say that the play was dreary and depressing, but I kind of like that kind of thing, so I enjoyed it. On a side note, as we were going into the play there was a pick-pocket on the corner. When I saw him he had his hand in a guy's back pocket right in front of me. Lucky for both of them, the man turned and so the pick-pocket had to drop the wallet. I was totally ready to slap it out of his hand, shove him off the sidewalk, and make a scene, but he just kind of disappeared into the crowd covert-like. How talented he had to be to do that was both awesome and disconcerting all at the same time. Anyways.

Wednesday was a full-day program trip to Stratford Upon Avon. I've been looking forward to it since the possibility of coming to London crossed my mind. Stratford Upon Avon is the birthplace and deathplace of William Shakespeare. In case you were wondering, William Shakespeare was the greatest writer to ever grace mankind with his presence. But, before we went to see the Shakespeare place, we hit up Warwick (pronounced Warrick) Castle. Warwick Castle is a real establishment that has been Disneyland-ized a little bit. It was built by William the Conqueror in 1068 and was used to hold prisoners of Henry II, and later actually held the English King, Edward IV. Basically, it was a really cool castle (I'll never get sick of castles). There was a walk-through exhibition with wax sculptures, some big-arse wooden weaponry, a peacock garden, a dude named David that had an owl (I couldn't hold the owl, cause he got sick of humoring BYU girls and eating dead baby chickens) named Louis, and a rose garden with no roses. Overall I enjoyed it quite a bit, although I was a little put out when I found out that the Princess Tower was only for 8 year old girls.

Anyways, off we went to Stratford Upon Avon. Our first stop was right outside the actual city, at Anne Hathaway's cottage (she was Shakespeare's wife). It was alright because it had the bench where he most likely sat while they were courting and old-school beds and stuff, but I was kind of like, "Yeah, ok, who cares? Can we go see Shaky now?" Eventually we did. Yay. Stratford itself is pretty small, but then again so is Meridian, Idaho (the freaking greatest place on earth and home of the next great American There were a few cool little shops, but we went almost immediately into the birthplace of Shakespeare exhibit. It was pretty well done, there were videos and stuff that lit up and different film interpretations. I liked the picture of Akira Kurosawa, who was a sweet Japanese film director who did Throne of Blood, which is the Macbeth story set in feudal Japan (wicked awesome, highly recommended). I told somebody that he did Macbeth and some idiot in our group was like, "No, it was Hamlet." I was like, "No. It was Macbeth. Throne of Blood." He's going to feel pretty stupid when he rents it and figures out the beautiful American man was right. Do not mess with me. Shakespeare's deathplace was kind of uneventful. The actual building was torn down ages ago because some idiot preacher got sick of people coming to see the house and also didn't feel like paying taxes (understandable I suppose). So the house there actually means...nothing besides the ground on which it was built. But I found a sweet room with some coloring pages and those rubberband grid toy things that I hadn't seen since the good old days at Linder Elementary (also in Meridian, ID). However, the church in which Shakespeare is buried was pretty impressive. The bells were ringing as we approached it and, hey, Shakespeare is buried there. He's very close to the altar (aka rich) and I kinda felt bad that everyone else buried there gets a who-gives? when you walk by their memorials. We were supposed to pay fifty cents each to get into the wing with his grave (I know...really?), but Cam and I waited till the guy manning the desk moved a bit and snuck in. Not gonna lie...I think Shaky would have been proud of us for doing so. Sock it to the man a little bit for Billy.

So we left the church, ate at a pub, bought candy, and headed to the Stratford Upon Avon Shakespeare Theatre to watch King Lear (the second hugely depressing play of the week). Lear is an incredible play and this was a phenomenal production of it. The actors were all so good (except Edmund was kind of flowery for a devious bastard [denotation AND connotation intended] villain). The costumes were mixed, but came mostly from WWI. The Fool was played by a woman dressed as a man and she was fantastic (I thought it was a fruity dude for like an hour and a half). Lear and Gloucester were very well done, and there was plenty of bloodshed to go around (however the Edmund/Edgar fight was weak sauce...tasted of Monty Python's black knight scene, but not in a good way). The set including the lights fell apart as things in the play fell apart, I wanted to throttle Goneril, and overall it was tied for the best Shakespeare production I have ever seen. It was a great opportunity to see world-class Shakespeare performed on his home court. I can die a happy man now.

Thursday was spent in class and awaiting my chance to call Robert Pinsky. So time out for a non-London update on my unbelievable life. When we got home from Stratford Upon Avon at 1:30am Thursday morning, I found that I had received an email from Robert Pinsky with a subject line that said "Boston University MFA Program." Ok, if you don't know who Robert Pinsky is, he was the Poet Laureate a few years ago and he is hugely famous (at least in the poetic world...which doesn't mean much). You can look him up on Wikipedia to see his gargantuan resume. Needless to say, all I could think was "No way. No. Way. No, freaking, way." So I opened it. I have been accepted to the Boston University Creative Writing Program. A full line of explanation points here would begin to show how excited I am. Firstly, I would like to mention that I am hugely blessed and I realize that the number one reason I got accepted is because someone upstairs is rooting for me. I don't know what I did in the pre-existence to deserve the chance to do exactly what I want in life, but I'm glad I did it. Secondly, I would just like to keep in mind how floored I was. I was a bit overwhelmed. Not to the point of tears (I'm too tough for that), but pretty close. Years of work, months of having no idea where I am in life, weeks of waiting, and days worth of filling out graduate school applications all became worth it in one shot. It was an experience. Boston University was #2 on my dream list (UT-Austin only higher 'cause they pay more), but it's #1 now. It's in Cambridge, MA, which is not only the most densely populated area of college students (Harvard, Boston College, MIT, Boston University, etc, etc) but it is also the highest concentrated area of Portuguese speakers in the United States (chalk up yet another enormous post-mission blessing). I called Robert Pinsky at 8pm our time (3pm his time) and chatted with him for about fifteen minutes. He told me that I will have a class of undergraduate students to teach as well as fellowship money, so tuition should be taken care of (yes!). He's also coming to London this week and said he would like to meet me, so he invited me to his reception and reading on Tuesday nights. He also gave me his cell phone number and a list of the students currently in the program with their emails so I can get into contact with them. His first email told me that he and the other three poets (including Louise Gluck, another ex-poet Laureate) "admired [my] bold, engaging, funny, penetrating poems" and he told me on the phone that he was particularly interested once he read my letter of intent because I was direct and straightforward, which is how he likes his prose. It's all unreal to me still. I've got a lot to figure out now that I have a direction, but having a direction makes all the difference in the world. Again, don't let the calm writing fool you, I am freaking STOKED to start. So last night after the call I went to get milkshakes with Laura, Cam, Sarah Shepherd, Alyssa, Mary, Katie, Brit, and Rachel. The mall doesn't have great milkshakes, but mine tasted like sweet, sweet victory. For now all I have to do is buy a nice shirt for Tuesday's reception.

After that news today seems uneventful, but it was pretty interesting in its own right. We had half a day of in-London travel. We started at John Keats' house. Keats is a famous British poet who died of TB when he was 25 (that's me in 34 days or so. 25, not dead). He was a qualified doctor before becoming a poet (smart dude) and was only 5'1". The house belonged to his friends, the Brawns, and has been added to over the years. Outside he had a plum tree, which he supposedly sat under while he was writing "Ode to a Nightingale." I stole Cam's picture idea and as you will note above I sat under it to receive inspiration for a few seconds(be jealous, Grandma). PS - I received no inspiration yet. If plums weren't nasty I'd try eating one (or throwing a bunch of them against Aunt Marla's house...another story for another day). I left the Keats house between groups so that I could walk across Hampstead Heath with my bad self. Hampstead Heath is essentially a ginormous park which is impressive even without the trees in bloom. I had a very pleasant, very long walk through it. Random fact: C.S. Lewis was inspired to write The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe while walking through Hampstead Heath in the snow. Across the heath I eventually got to our last stop, the Kenwood house. It's a big house that was owned by rich English people. The best part was the original Rembrandt self portrait (the one where's he's getting old and wearing the white rag on his head). I'm not a huge art conoisseur, but I know that one and it was beautiful. Ran to Camden market where I ate chinese food (now addicted to 'salt and pepper' chicken), bought cheap sunglasses, found acai juice (pure joy) and got offered weed. Spent the rest of my day today helping make dinner, getting a McFlurry, writing two new poems, and sitting here boring my readers with a HUGE entry for this week.

Tomorrow: Macbeth at the Globe Theatre. I may just pee my pants for joy.


Lisa said...

Calvin I'm so excited for you to go to Boston University!!! Congrats! That's a HUGE accomplishment and you have every right to be throughly pleased with yourself. I really like reading your blog posts because you are such a good writer. Congrats again!

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