The Full Hot Orator (wickedflea) wrote,
The Full Hot Orator

I'm dim sometimes. Susan came up to me today and said, "It's D-Day!" I gave her a blank stare. "It's D-Day," she repeated. I couldn't figure her out. Was there something that was supposed to happen today? Was the director supposed to come in and tell us that our department was being eliminated? Why was she torturing me by being cryptic on a Monday morning? "D-DAY," she said. "June sixth??"

OH! THAT D-Day! Der.

I also forgot all about my doctor's appointment this morning. Rather, I knew I had one today, but I thought it was at 4:00 or 4:30. At about 10:35, I checked to find that it was at 10:15. Duh.

There were some fraudulent charges put on my bank account Friday, and now I can't use the account until I get a new card in 5-10 days. D'oh.

I think 3.5 years in Connecticut have finally turned me into a pussy. I walk outside, and in no time I'm sweating like a dog. Wait, dogs don't sweat. But you know what I mean. And it's not even 70 degrees outside! This sucks, man--I still hate the cold like poison, and now I can't stand the heat.

Our computer guys are clods. They told Mary that the CD-Rs (not CD-RWs) we have are rewriteable and that the "R" stands for "write." Um, no and no. He also wants us to use DirectCD, which has always seemed like a seriously goofy program to me.

I've seen Margaret the Shakespeare around a couple of times lately, which I was glad about. For a while, she was getting arrested a lot and, I think, was looking at some real jail time--all for panhandling and doing her performances on the street. To be fair, she had been getting more and more aggressive--there was that time she carjacked me, you know. There was an article in the Times about her back in December or so, but I can't find it. Oh, wait, here it is. Word up for Lexis-Nexis.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
The New York Times

December 19, 2004 Sunday
Late Edition - Final

SECTION: Section 1; Column 2; Metropolitan Desk; New Haven Journal; Pg. 48

LENGTH: 970 words

HEADLINE: A Resurgent Downtown Wearies Of a Street Poet's Antic Disposition




Margaret Holloway chose Shakespeare, of course, for her first performance after serving 53 days in jail for failing to appear in court on charges of disorderly conduct, breaching the peace and other urban theatrics.

''Hamlet's first soliloquy,'' she announced, back turned, one arm unfurled toward an imaginary stage front, as she stood on the third-floor landing of the old rooming house to which a judge allowed her to return three weeks ago. ''Act I, Scene 2.''

O! that this too too solid flesh would melt,

Thaw and resolve itself into a dew;

Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd

His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! O God!

How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable

Seem to me all the uses of this world.

It is verse that has stirred souls, inspired drama programs and driven doctoral dissertations, but Ms. Holloway has most often measured its impact in spare change. That, after all, is what her florid recitations -- from ''Hamlet'' to ''Medea'' to ''The Canterbury Tales'' -- have yielded her on the streets of downtown New Haven for more than a decade.

In some places she might seem just another eccentric street poet. Here, however, in the shadow of Yale, where she earned a master's degree in drama in 1980, Ms. Holloway, 53, has been an unlikely yet very visible link between the sullied sidewalks and the ivory tower, an institution all her own, the Shakespeare Lady.

And once again, she is in trouble.

On Monday, she is scheduled to appear before a judge, hoping to convince him that she is no longer smoking crack cocaine and that she is regularly taking medication to treat her schizophrenia. But perhaps most important, she must convince the judge that she has stopped offending merchants and passers-by on the gentrifying blocks east of the historic New Haven town green, where expensive new condominiums are on sale just steps from her squalid third-floor room, where some people now see her less as a harmless poet than as a hardened Puck.

''If she conducted herself the way she did five years ago, everything would be fine,'' said Pete Pereira, a bartender at Anna Liffey's, a pub on Whitney Avenue.

More recently, however, there has been less Shakespeare and more shakedown, some merchants say. ''She just badgers you,'' Mr. Pereira said. ''My buddy paid her $50 once to be left alone for a year.''

Still, Ms. Holloway has not lost her flair. An August arrest report noted that she was wearing a ''leopard spot fedora'' while asking parishioners at St. Mary's Church for money. A Dominican friar complained to the police that this was not the first time she had begged at the church. The report listed an alias for the accused: Shakespeare Lady.

On Oct. 1, after missing one too many court dates, Ms. Holloway was finally jailed for failing to appear.

Ms. Holloway is accused of ''crimes of inconvenience,'' according to Rosemarie Paine, a lawyer who has put coins in her cup for years and now represents her in court free of charge.

Ms. Paine urges tolerance from a downtown whose fortunes are rising and storefronts are flourishing after years when New Haven struggled. So does Mayor John DeStefano Jr.

''There's a balance here,'' the mayor, a Democrat, said of the gentrifying area. ''This is not about creating Disneyland. This is reality here. You know, Margaret just gets exuberant sometimes. Sometimes she gets a little too loud. And a lot of that is caused by her problem.''

It seems everyone downtown knows Ms. Holloway, and her troubles. She receives medication through a social service program but is not always responsible about taking it. And it is unclear whether she has kicked the crack habit that earlier this year wasted her nearly-six-foot frame to little more than 100 pounds.

Her biography is elusive. She grew up in Georgia, the daughter of a minister, then went north to Bennington College with the help of a minority student placement program. She started at Yale in the early 1970's and dropped out before returning to complete her master's. Many details of the quarter-century since she graduated seem lost to schizophrenia.

What is certain, however, is that Ms. Holloway always stood out.

''She got to a lot of people,'' recalled Richard Dailey, now a filmmaker in Paris who went to Bennington with her. ''She had this way of expressing herself, this rapidity that's really quite startling.''

Ms. Holloway often seems brilliant, dominating conversations with her intellectual range, her allusive leaps and the sheer speed and volume of her voice. She is not modest.

''I'm one of the greatest thespians, artists, writers who ever lived,'' she said.

In the late 1990's, Mr. Dailey learned that Ms. Holloway was living in New Haven. He found her and made a film, his first, about her. ''God Didn't Give Me a Week's Notice'' is 15 minutes long. Ms. Holloway chose the title.

Mayor DeStefano was among the sponsors of the film's debut in New Haven in 2001. The event raised several thousand dollars for Ms. Holloway, who liked to say at the time that she was having her 15 minutes of fame. Three years later, however, Ms. Holloway is by many accounts in a more precarious position than ever, on the brink of being regarded as a criminal by some yet clearly needing social services. She no longer recites verse on the streets, she says, for fear of landing back in jail. Merchants say they see her in the neighborhood, though not performing.

But just before Thanksgiving, as a photographer took pictures of her outside on Whitney Avenue, she could not resist riffing on a passage from ''Medea'' by Euripides. It was a nearly operatic improvisation, all rhythm and punch and melody, syllables serving as springboards to pure visceral expression.

Afterward, Ms. Holloway was not interested in questions about how she might overcome her troubles.

''Wasn't I good?'' she asked.
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