Sunday, August 02, 2015

MIXING MEMORY AND DESIRE

So the young and still very beautiful Marlon Brando is on the front of the theatre section of the New York Times today, holding his baby Christian.  Taking all things personally, which I do, I gently seize this as a sign that my life, too, may re-begin.
     It was all these many years ago, when as a Junior at Bryn Mawr, and an aspiring songwriter,  I met a woman named Janice Mars, who wanted to sing a song of mine called 'SEX.'  Everybody wanted to sing it, (it was clever and funny, road company-young- girl-Cole Porter) and Janice invited me to come into New York to meet 'Somebody.'  We rendezvoused  at the Carnegie Hall apartments, getting off the elevator at a high floor, to the resonating cry of 'Eeeeeh, Janice!" in that unmistakeable voice.  There was at the time no greater star in the world than Marlon Brando, and, I really believe, in spite of all the damage he did to himself in the following years, there never would be a greater star.  Not with the impact he had, the way he was then, when I had the teenager-y ecstasy of hanging out with him as he did his later-that-summer- summer stock "Arms and the Man," in Falmouth Massachussetts, so all his friends could work, including Janice.
     "Sing it to me, kid," he said that day at the Carnegie Towers, as he whopped Janice back down across his lap, and picked imaginary(I think they were) hairs from her chest, and beat on it the rhythm of the song I was singing.
     "Not bad, not bad," he said, when I was finished, still shaking. "Tell me about yourself, kid."  So I did, voice quavering, ending with "And I go to Bryn Mawr."
    "Oooooooo, Ba-rynnnnn Mahwahrrrrrrr," he Katharine Hepburned, perfectly.
    So apparently meeting with his approval,  I was invited up to the Falmouth Playhouse, where I got to room with Maureen Stapleton, another good friend of theirs.  She was there doing "Three Men on a Horse" with Wally Cox, Marlon's best buddy. 
    It was, as you might imagine, an enchanted time, in spite of my being unhappily overweight, ("You on a diet, kid?" Marlon said to me at dining hall breakfast, as I set aside three blueberries.  "It's okay, I just think most girls are prettier thin."  Considering what was to happen to him, it seems beyond ironic.  I last saw him at a wedding at the Hotel Bel-Air, where he was so huge as to be unrecognizable, except for the "V" at the base of the back of his hair. )
    "There's your great love," my husband, always solicitous and always jealous of my infatuations said as we saw him sitting on a bench in the garden.  "He's turned into Sydney Greenstreet."  
    And so he had.
    So it was great, seeing Marlon yesterday, digitalized on the screen in the film they've made from his own obsessive collecting of his own career record, remembering how brilliant he was, sorrowing that his life brought him so little happiness, so few moments of real laughter, the comedy he was so inept at playing, but so enjoyed. 
     Then I took a break for some Japanese food, and went back to see another of my attachments, Gore Vidal, in his miffed debates with William F. Buckley.  I never much liked Buckley, but never felt compassion for him like I did yesterday.
    We had been in Rome, my husband Don and I, when the feared, ferocious, and very funny when she wasn't being mean agent Sue Mengers, still my great friend at the time, told me to call Gore.  He was at the time as big a name as there was in the literary and theatrical world, and I was more than thrilled when he invited us to come for a drink, to his rooftop(I believe it was) overlooking everything, except other people's failings.
     Apparently we passed the cocktail audition.  We were asked to continue on to dinner, in some good (everything is) Italian restaurant, along with one of Andy Warhol's flower-named pseudo-celebs, or maybe it was a sort-of color: Ultra-Violet.
      "Are you wearing contact lenses?" Gore asked me during dinner.
      "No," I said.
      "It's just that your eyes are so beautiful I thought you must have something in them."
       Dazzled is too mild a word for what I felt.  To be hit on by one of the world's most celebrated and certainly most articulate  homosexuals!  I could hardly speak for the rest of the evening.  
    Don was infuriated.  "It just shows what a pervert you are," he said when we got back to our hotel, "that you enjoy the company of Gore Vidal."
      Well, I did. And he, apparently, liked mine.  When Don died-- much too soon-- Gore invited me to come visit him in Ravello.  He waited for me like an eager schoolboy at the trellised entryway to the path along the cliff to the home he shared with his longtime companion Howard, who was not very happy I'd come.  "Gore didn't tell me you were coming," Howard miffed, as I joined them for dinner, after a swim in their pool.  They had everything, or so it seemed,
     The dinner was less than joyful. For the rest of my time there, Gore met me at restaurants in town.
     He was at the time trying to stop drinking.  When I saw the debates last night I fully understood the level of his malice.  Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, the best of our poets said.  But he was wrong.  Hell hath no fury like a brilliant gay man, nettled. 
    For all his brilliance, Gore wasn't in the least funny.  And he was mean.
     I felt actual pity for Buckley.
     Then I came home, as I am trying to think of it, and maybe even make it be a little bit, and tried to catch up with my rest,  Also what might be inside my skull, besides memory. And Desire?  Maybe a bit late in my game, unless it is for Marlon, digitalized.
   




Friday, July 24, 2015

GWENNIE'S WONDERFUL, HORRIBLE, SPECIAL TERRIBLE ADVENTURE


So it would seem I have gotten through it all alive, provided the plane lands.   Having gone through blatant misadventure— that is to say, I went to Amsterdam as a not-really destination, with no real intention of going anywhere, just feeling out of sorts and out of energy, and probably out of luck, the reasonably priced ticket went there, and there was where Daniel was, and Peter, two beautiful friends I have made on my travels.  So I bought a ticket there and from there intended to explore, an intention I abandoned when I got to Bruges as they spell it some places, when I discovered I had been robbed online by someone in Tuscaloosa, Alabama where I have never been and certainly have no intention of ever going.  Stuck in a little overpriced hotel on a canal which everything is in Brugge which is how they spell it there, I went on a tour of churches, in the middle of which Amy at Citi bank called me to alert me to my having been pilfered for my entire account, at which juncture a beautiful white-haired Englishman actually came back out of the tour to see if I was alright, at which point I fell in love.  I understand I will never see him again, and would like to make him into my final fantasy love story, but I don’t know that I have any more Fiction in me.
    It would seem I should pull myself together for my Memoir, hate the word.  My wonderful friend Barbara Conaty, the great woman at the Library Journal, she used to be, suggested I call it Recollections, I think, and I suppose I’d better do them while I still have them. Had a very long moment— it might have been almost an hour walking by the market place along the canal in Amsterdam, when I really couldn’t remember where it was I was going, or even where it might have been I belonged, if indeed I belonged anywhere.  Sweet Esmir, the tall. smart, kind and wasted(he is brighter than just someone who should just help you learn to master what Steve Jobs left behind) came to visit me at the tiny sanctuary Miriam found for me near my old hood by the canal, having had a fight with his love, the mother of his little boy, which I hope he resolves by the time I finish this adventure.
     What is evident to me is how angry everybody can get about everything, and how confused and confusable we each of us are, with the possible exception of Jack.  In the course of this totally uncharted adventure, I have come across three lovely young women just graduated from Columbia, one of who actually threw discus I think they are spelled, the handsome, thick haired Englishman who actually dropped out of the tour in Bruges to be concerned about me, Peter and Arthur and most touchingly Daniel who I love with my soul but suffer over because he has no clue how smart he is and says he is going to stop smoking but we’ll see, and my new friend from India who’s actually invited me, but I don’t know if I have the energy to set off on that big a trip.  
    Well, I guess we’ll see.  Meantime, I have to fill out the customs form they’ve just handed me on the plane.  Sadly, it feels like the trip was pointless, an adventure that wasn’t one, really.  The definition of Adventure, I wrote in one of my novels, is you don’t know how it’s going to turn out.  I am too old to be in love, except with Daniel, who glistens with the glow of Don, the nicest man who ever lived, though not long enough.  I would like to think there is still something colorful ahead.  Well, let’s start with the plane landing.  One can only hope.
P.S.  The PLANE LANDED!!!  Well, there's a Beginning.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

DAMNED IN AMSTERDAM

So just as in every bad dream, everything comically dark that could happen did.  Except of course that I am still alive, and not quite as old as I could be, and people are kind.
     It is very much the 21st century.  My computer got a virus and someone pilfered my bank account.  A bright woman at City National in Maryland caught it, so I am not bankrupt, including emotionally.  But it was a black adventure on a cloudless day, when I should have been looking at design and purpose as my little boat (not mine, you can't be too literal here) wiffled through the watery byways.  Everything here is worth looking at, including the prostitute or if I weren't trying to sound intelligent-- whore area, where I was saddened to see tourists actually bringing their children.  Not for action, I'm sure-- they looked to be from the South or places where people don't think.  But still-- what could the kids imagine?  I mean they were little, but not little enough not to wonder what those women were doing in doorways with jewels in their belly buttons. More than sad were the women themselves, albeit beautiful.
    I have to take a break now and go to the Apple store, my haven, to have the virus removed from my belly button.  Later.  God willing, if there is a God.
     Now it is Sunday, and I have spent a happy, carefree lunchtime with my beautiful former almost neighbors, the lovely Brits from across the water when I used to live here, Miriam and Fred and baby Zephyr, going to the museum (I think it is,) where everybody seems to take their children to lunch.  Former (Almost) neighbors because I didn't connect with them until I was about to leave Amsterdam, and was struck with a great sense of loss about losing them.  They are so clearly special, making the world a better place with less than a lot of funding(they are in Academe and charity work) and/or ease.  I had forgotten how riddled with rivalry the academic community is, -- not having been involved with it since I was a graduate student at Stanford, a long, long time ago, when the nightmare level of the competition was darkly dazzling--so it is an edge of the chair existence for Fred, a patently selfless scholar who still has to know or at least presume his future is secure, which none of them ever does until he has tenure.  Her job is dependent on funding, and you will be less than stunned to know that there is even worse competition there as she works with Bangladesh and the places we only hear about with child labor and say "How terrible," and then forget about, unless we are Miriam.  Noble souls, selfless, both of them, and probably Zephyr by the time she is four.
     I am hopeful that some dazzlingly clear reason why I made this trip will become evident by the time I leave here.  I am so used to  being in a community-- such as it is, to even call it a community is borderline satirical-- of the self-absorbed, except for Ellen and Amber, that to come in contact with people like this is probably a cleansing. But it has been less than a dance of a holiday.  Hardly a dance at all.  And you need to remember that Gene Kelly was my dancing teacher in Pittsburgh when I was two.  I mean, if you can remember Gene Kelly.  

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

THE LOST (PASS)CHORD

So I am back in the Apple store in Amsterdam, what has become my security locale. Am bunking in with my beloved Daniel, whose mouse has become my room-mate.  We re-named him Andrew this morning, after my last almost love, the bright, sad comedy writer in New York, sharp as a tack he was, in his tired prime, and still suburban adorable, a word I have come to use too much lately, probably because there is little adorable in my life.  
    As I regard most things in life as a spiritual test, this one is a Biggie.  It is cold, rainy and dark in Amsterdam, but I at least have shelter from a cherished friend.  And that is more, I'm afraid, than I have in the United States, which I don't think we can think of it as at this point.
    Meanwhile, a legal battle is borderline raging, over something I wrote in my long ago youth, a concept that became 'What a Way to Go,' a successful comedy with the young, gifted, and very horny Shirley MacLaine.  She played a woman who wanted to marry for love but all her husbands died funny and soon, making her a richer and richer widow.
     I think I sold that in 1962.  I find it hard to believe how long ago that was. But there is a fight going on over it now, from some people who want to own it and probably make it into a musical, which it should be, as it's funny and lively, or at least it would have been if written by the right people.  Meanwhile a man I thought was a friend, an apparently quite duplicitous man who has never succeeded except in fooling me, has flogged it to a team I consider less than gloriously gifted, and the nice guy who got it from me seems to be getting screwed out of it. 
    And it is raining in Amsterdam, where it is less than welcoming, except in a couple of people I really like, and Andrew the Mouse.
But at least I have come in from the rain, and bumped into the Apple teacher I really like, from Bosnia, yet, with whom I have a date on Friday to meet his 16 month old son who is probably more connected and organized than I am.  The only thing that makes me feel a little better is I could be in Bruges.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

LOW-KEYED IN BRUGGE, they spell it here

So I came here for what I imagined would be a literary adventure, as I thought it would be quaint, serene, incredibly real by virtue of being genuinely local.  Instead, as you know if you read this blog (hate the word, will accept ideas for a better one, that doesn't sound like you are barely able to keep yourself from vomiting) I was robbed online and a sweet newlywed named Amy in Maryland caught it at the bank so I am still afloat, except I cannot use my bank account till I get back to the States and open a new one.  Should be interesting, although I am too old to be a hooker.  Or maybe not.
    Brugge or Bruges as it was in the movie I never saw is dangerously cobbled, the streets bumpy and nigh on impossible for a slightly older woman with cleverly replaced hips that still know themselves not as they were.  The surgeon who replaced one of them had an ex-wife of whom I reminded him, so I know I am probably lucky to be walking at all.  But I was told that I was the first woman he actually talked to, as they are all very busy moving on and replacing, these surgeons.  I hate to write anything that makes me sound my age, but it does seem sort of funny.
    So I am going back to Amsterdam, where I was, after all,  connected to some human beings even if they were in the Apple store, have some adorable little people I can look for on the other side of the canal I used to look out on, and there's Daniel who I love and can try to help stop smoking as he would be a cute old man if he lived.  Interesting to me is how quickly I lost interest in Bruges or Brugge just because I was sort of raped.
    This is a hard town on your feet and your hips if they're irregular, and on your heart if you have faith in people and they have access to the Internet, which I guess almost everybody does now, so be careful.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

LOOKING

Am trying to find insight, brilliance, what I am hoping, praying I might even say, I was sent here for, struggling to believe there is a purpose.  It has come to me only lately that it is actually late in my game, and I may not have a high reason for Being at all.  I capitalize that because once I was a trying-to-be deeply thinking being I imagined, fantasied, insisted that all of this was for a Reason.  That it might actually be random saddens me, and makes me want to give up.  All the same I am hoping.
     Still,  I ate chocolate and cheese.  My body awaits what I have done to it.
     But today I picked up three recent Columbia graduates, and it gave me Hope.  They are all of them bright-eyed.  One is a champion athlete, a discus thrower if you can believe it. One is a do-gooder from India which I guess you'd have to be if you were smart and had a heart and came from India.  She is going back home to enlist her community in making the world a better place.
The third is a patently open-hearted young woman who cares.  
    They are all three of them assets to the world, and I hope the world makes good use of them. I am proud to have met them and am glad I still have the chutzpah to engage strangers.
   But they are gone.   And it seems a form of extreme masochism to be in this land of a horrible sounding language, when there are so many I love and can speak, and so many beautiful ones I would like to learn.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

AN ADVENTURE NOT SOUGHT

So apparently my bank account was invaded, how, I am not at all sure, as I thought I have kept my wallet and bankcards close to my vest, though I don't have a vest.  But apparently there are all kinds of clever villains working the Internet, and somebody in Tuscaloosa, where I have never been and now will certainly never go, tapped into me online for $22,000.  Don't send money, I'm okay.  But it is scary.
   Still, I am happy to be in Bruges, where everything is gloriously old and you can't find your way back to anyplace even though it's small as it's all twisty-curvey and nobody who lives here knows where anything is either.  Recent great events took place here but I can't tell you exactly what they were as that's when the bank called with details and I had to leave the tour and the very handsome white-haired guide who is probably long married, not that I'm really that interested, but it would be nice to get inspiration for a story.
    It isn't easy finding anything here-- not only an idea or the right street.  I was covered with wonder at the streets being so clean, albeit cobbled and hard on the sole-- better than the soul-- with all the horse-drawn carriages that work the place, when I finally saw the leather slings attached to the horse's rears, which accounts for the manure having a place to go that isn't the street.  Going to dinner now where I will have a fine wine to celebrate not having been wiped out financially so will just do it physically.  Met a beautiful white-haired couple from Shropshire on the tour, the husband actually coming back to make sure I was all right when I dropped out to talk to the bank.  Maybe I should move to Shropshire.
     Then at the dinner I met a lovely Aussie couple here celebrating their 50th.  Sweet as they can be, as almost everyone from Australia always seems to be, including my daughter-in-law.   I am still relieved at having been saved from being wiped out, and am genuinely impressed with the bank for having spotted it and flagged me down before the villain flagged me out.
    But I am tired now.  It is borderline exhausting almost being bankrupted.  And it still saddens me for the world that there are villains in it.  Especially from Tuscaloosa.