Counting my blessings

My great and beautiful friend, the much-lamented Robert Lax, wrote this in the prologue to his masterwork “Circus of the Sun:”

And in the beginning was love. Love made a sphere:
all things grew within it; the sphere then encompassed
beginnings and endings, beginning and end. Love
had a compass whose whirling dance traced out a
sphere of love in the void: in the center thereof
rose a fountain.

Bob, in his life and in his words, strove to lead a simple life of love and devotion and peace. I’m thinking of this today, two days before Christmas, because I’m very aware this year of the simple joys and gifts I possess and will celebrate during this Yuletide.

I think that one reason I’m so grateful this year is that it feels to me like the whole goddamned world is falling apart, disintegrating, like we’re barreling toward oblivion at warp speed and pieces are blowing away as if our heat shield has failed.

But the other day I sat in a church – not a typical place for me to be — and watched and listened as a choir sang traditional Christmas carols. My eyes filled up with tears. Part of it was feeling connected to a nice group of people who are very human in both their frailty and their collective strength, and very welcoming to a relative stranger. Part of it was just feeling the simple power of the hope that still resides in Christmas. And part of it was that I couldn’t take my eyes off one of the altos, who sang with such heartfelt joy that it made me love her even more.

Mostly, though, it has to do with this, which my friend Bob knew and which he taught me: Love is the beginning and the end. It’s as simple as all that.

So I count my blessings…

I’m alive, and in pretty good health. I’ve got three great children, each of them remarkable in their own way. I have caring, devoted, supportive friends. My mother’s going on 81 years old and still shovels snow from her sidewalk and plants a garden every year and still calls me “Nicky.” I’ve got an absolutely beautiful 15-month-old granddaughter who can’t stop smiling and waves to me when we Skype and blows kisses to me over the phone when she can’t see me but can hear my voice. And, no, I don’t have enough money, and, no, the publishing world has not yet recognized my genius, but someday I will, and someday they will, and more important anyway than fame or fortune is the gift of being in love with an incredibly beautiful and gentle woman who loves me in return, and that we’ll be together for Christmas this year.

So, Merry Christmas! I hope you’ll find time to count your blessings, too. Here’s Diana Krall to put you in the mood:

Portrait of the artist

Portrait of the artist looking for the red EXIT signs?

Portrait of the artist looking for the red EXIT signs?

Had my photo/portrait/post office mugshot taken today as I begin the final week of my three-week stay at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, where I’ve done lots of work on a novel — inspired by the life story of the real-life 1920s Italian anarchist with the unlikely name of Severino DiGiovanni — and where they have invited me four times in the last four years to spend time as a fiction-writing fellow because, nearest as I can figure, I’m a fellow who writes fiction.

Anyway, however I got here, I’m very excited about this novel. But I’m wondering about this photo.

A writer friend who’s very smart and very hip and very talented and very published just messaged me to say “Great picture!”

My brother, on the other hand, who I can always count on for his support because he’s blood, emailed back: “You look like a serial killer.”

So, let’s say early reviews are mixed. I myself don’t know what to think.

Do I look like an author? Do I have that intelligent, slightly bohemian, interesting, he’s-a-genius-but-an-approachable-genius look that I suppose all writers — or maybe it’s just me — crave?

Or do I look like I’m lost? Like I’m being interrogated by the NSA and CIA and FBI and KGB all at once in order to save time? Like I have amnesia and I’m wondering why I keep hearing nothing on the radio but country music and fire-and-brimstone preachers? Like I’m doing a screen test for Andy Warhol’s Incredible Plastic Inevitable?

Or like I’m just about finished contemplating and now I’m about to answer a reporter’s question: “What, Mr. DiGiovanni, is the meaning of life?”

Well, if I’m in the mood, and I think you’re all ready to handle it, I’ll answer that question in my next blog post — but in a pre-screened post that will be available only to people who, like my astute writer friend, with declare with great enthusiasm: “Great picture!”

Hitting the street (fair)

I’ll be at the Highland Park NJ street fair Sunday, Sept. 29, reading from my Washington Irving parody ‘Rip’ and maybe from a novel-in-progress. I’m scheduled at 4:30 pm at corner of Raritan and Third avenues at a performance space hosted by Main Street Highland Park. I take the stage, believe it or not, after a juggler who’s on from 4 to 4:30!

Beacon shines along the Hudson as “Rip” heads north

On the heels of a very enjoyable reading before a very receptive audience Tuesday night at the library in Highland Park, N.J., next stop will be on the shores of the majestic Hudson River at Beacon, N.Y., where the illuminati (and literati) will shine Saturday (tomorrow) at 1 p.m. I’ll be doing a “Rip” talk, reading and book-signing at the Howland Public Library on Main Street, as part of year-long slate of events and activities celebrating the town’s 100th anniversary. Admission is free. Copies of “Rip” will be available for purchase and signing.
“Rip” reading and book-signing aside, Beacon’s truly worth a visit — it’s in a beautiful setting with a quaint and cozy downtown, and it’s home to the great folksinger and social activist Pete Seeger, as well as the amazing Dia Museum.
Be warned: My reading will take place weather and heating system willing! Seems like there’s a chance of a little snow — and the library’s been having problems with its furnace! — so check with the library first to make sure the snow is shoveled and the heat is on (the library phone number is 845-831-1134).

coverforamazon

I’m happy to announce that my reading and book-signing at the Holland-Alexandria Free Public Library has been rescheduled. I’ll be appearing there on Saturday, March 16, at 1 p.m. I’m looking forward to returning to my old turf in Hunterdon County in western New Jersey — I lived in Alexandria Township for many years and edited the local weekly paper, the now-defunct Delaware Valley News.

Here’s a photo of me posing with the statue of Rip Van Winkle in Irvington, N.Y.:
me and rip van winkle

Here’s an updated schedule of other scheduled “Rip” readings and book-signings:/em>:

Tuesday, Feb. 19, 7 p.m., Highland Park Public Library, Highland Park, NJ

Saturday, Feb. 23, 1 p.m., Howland Public Library, Beacon, NY

Thursday, April 4, 5 p.m., Port Jervis Free Public Library, Port Jervis NY

Saturday, April 13, 2 p.m., Hunterdon County Library, Raritan Township, NJ

Monday, April 22, 6 p.m., Somers Public Library, Katonah, NY.

At each venue, I’ll read excerpts from my satirical modern-day “retelling” of “Rip Van Winkle,” talk a little about my longtime affection for the works of Washington Irving, answer questions, and sign copies for people who buy the book, which will be available for purchase after the reading. Admission to all events is free.

“Rip” tide rolls up the Hudson

me and rip van winkle

I’ll be in Peekskill, N.Y., this Saturday afternoon (Jan. 19) for another “Rip” reading and book-signing.

Here’s a link to a write-up in the Peekskill edition of the online news outlet Patch.

As for that photo above — That’s me and Rip Van Winkle…More exactly, that’s me posing with a great statue of Rip Van Winkle on a lawn next to the village hall in Irvington, N.Y., where I gave a “Rip” reading last Saturday.

Irvington — named after the author of the classic story “Rip Van Winkle” — is just a lovely riverside town just south of Tarrytown (former stomping grounds of Washington Irving, the Headless Horseman and the Rip character in my parody of Irving’s classic story — in my book, Rip works as a toll collector on the Tappan Zee Bridge in Tarrytown!)

Anyway, try to make it to my reading this Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Field Library, 4 Nelson Ave, Peekskill, N.Y.

“Rip”-fest at Tiffany’s!

The refurbished and recently-reopened Tiffany Reading Room in Irvington, N.Y., where I'll be reading excerpts from my novella "Rip" on Saturday, Jan. 12, at 2 p.m.


The refurbished and recently-reopened Tiffany Reading Room in Irvington, N.Y., where I’ll be reading excerpts from my novella “Rip” on Saturday, Jan. 12, at 2 p.m.

It won’t be “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” but I just might be tempted to play or sing “Moon River,” which was featured in that film’s soundtrack and was one of my young father’s favorite songs back in the early 1960s.

That’s because I’ll be reading from my novella “Rip” and signing copies afterward on Saturday, Jan. 12, at 2 p.m., in Irvington, N.Y., on the shores of my own life’s river, the beautiful Hudson, which became embedded in my heart and soul when I was a boy growing up a few miles downtstream from Irvington in Yonkers, N.Y.

I’m pleased to be reading in Irvington, for several reasons.

One, it’s the hometown of my friend Phil, whose family owned and operated the village pharmacy.

Second, the village is just south of Tarrytown, setting of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” and is — of course — named after Washington Irving.
So I’ll be reading excerpts from a parody of “Rip Van Winkle” right in the heart of Irving country!

Third, and perhaps best of all, while my appearance in being hosted by Irvington’s public library, I’ll actually be reading in Irvington’s town hall in the beautifully refurbished and recently reopened Tiffany Reading Room.

The great room was in disrepair and was being used for storage until a local fund-raising campaign raised the tens of thousands of dollars needed to restore the room to its former glory — looking very much the way it looked a century ago when it was designed and furnished by Louis Comfort Tiffany with funding from none other than the daughter of Jay Gould!

So try to make it to Irvington-on-Hudson on Saturday, Jan. 12, at 2 p.m. The Irvington Village Hall is located at 85 Main Street, just down the hill from Route 9. Admission is free. Inspiration is by Washington Irving. Parody of “Rip Van Winkle” is by Nicholas DiGiovanni. Set design is by Louis Comfort Tiffany!

Here’s a link to a recent New York Times article about the Tiffany Reading Room’s history and restoration:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/23/nyregion/the-tiffany-reading-room-in-irvington-town-hall.html?_r=0