Thursday, July 24, 2014

HOME?

So I have come to unexpected rest in Holland, a place I never imagined being curious about, much less making my home.  Even writing the word, 'home,' if this electronic shit can be considered writing surprises me. 
     I have always dreamed of my center being high on a hill, maybe the one in the south of France I would climb to from Les Bergerettes, in the days when it was still easy to climb. Or Broadway, if it ever opened its arms to me, as Yip Harburg, my mentor, and beloved friend did when I was young.  Or Frank Loesser, the soul-less genius who seduced me, though that word seems to imply, connote, or even say flat out that I was reluctant, which I can't remember if I was, but don't remember the authenticity of, I was so excited to be in his Presence.  I capitalize it because he really did seem Holy to me, he was so gifted.  Unless of course he was using other people's brilliance, which might have been the case, at least some of the time, as conscience was not one of his leading characteristics. 
    But really, what did it matter when measured up against what he had to give the world, whether or not it was all his or, maybe sometimes, somebody else's.  I remember his calling me in LA, and saying, "Kid..." which he did call me. "Moss and I are doing this show and we're using some of your material."  And I, being twenty, or maybe twenty-one by then, said "What about money?"  And Frank, being who he was, said "Call your family." 
    Not a very nice man.  But an incredibly gifted one.  I remember clearly, I can still see him seated at my rented piano on Havenhurst, naked, the crack of his ass on the bench, as he played, and sang... imagine! "Warm all Over," from what was to be 'Most Happy Fella.'  What privilege there was in my being so violated, which, I suppose, but what difference does it make? I was.
   So here I am now, in Amsterdam, a lifetime later.  There was a magnificent piece about the just departed Elaine Stritch online, where everything seems to be now, print having likely outlived itself.  I used to sit in a booth at Downey's listening to Ben Gazzara, with his voice, which I described in NAKED IN BABYLON, as going "between a woman's legs" trying to seduce her, which I don't think he was successful at for a very long time.  He tried for me too, for a while in decades to come after Don was gone, and by the time he succeeded, couldn't.
     Life.  It's really funny.  As long as you're still living it.  How it gets to be afterwards, if there is any afterwards, might be even more interesting.  We'll see. Unless, of course, we don't.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

RETOUR A LA JEUNESSE

At least I think it was my youth: the Mars Club in Paris.  Everything I wrote here was lost, as I was warned it would be by my computer.  But that was in Paris, where everything is difficult, except for eating and drinking and spending money.
But this, as writ, used to be the Mars Club. I went to Paris for the weekend and found my old neighbors, the Kellers, now moved to the nearby countryside, as our old building is over. And after a lovely dinner at their new home, located only after a couple of forays to the wrong places, they were kind enough to drive me to the cul de sac where it was.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

UNDER THE LOUVRE

  Am back in Paris, a place where I have never been particularly happy which makes you feel twice as sad because it is mythically one of the happy places on the planet.  When I actually lived here full time, which I did twice, once when I was first out of college and was singing at the Mars Club,-- I believe it is now a laundromat-- and the second time when I was traveling for the Wall Street Journal Europe so everyone was afraid of me, expecting a Republican in a suit, I never really connected with the city which it really is, as you realize most especially when living in Amsterdam, basically a village.  Full of small town hearts and roads you can find your way along and be someplace you didn't realize was that close.  And then there are the trams, so cheap and connected and folksy.  
   I find myself curiously touched by being in that "village," feeling strangely a part of it even though I am still so disconnected.  Away from it I wonder why I have not made better use of the peace and genuine quietude, the privilege of living sufficiently high above the streams that meander through to the sea, and strangely, miraculously it seems to me, are fresh-water rather than salt.  I have to imagine/guess/formulate that the reason for that is I haven't yet committed to what is my next project, and that, my work, has always been the post to which I attached myself.
    Now I am in the Apple Store, not as busy as the one in Amsterdam, but not as helpful either, and all around me are bouncing words in French, a language prettier and easier than Dutch but coming out of people who are less genuine.  I find that I am more or less loving being in Amsterdam, though resistant to learning the language, because it is basically so horrible.  Even ordering a dinner in the great restaurant I discovered wandering the back alleys, Helmsele Mudder or something like that, (a chef who wrote a cookbook I bought that drove my true friend Daniel into contained spasms of laughter: "You bought a cookbook in DUTCH!" he marveled,)  did not inspire me to learn what I was saying, it sounded so awful.  But tasted really fine, I have to say.
     Anyway, I am up to 66% on my charge on my cellphone, having forgotten my cable in Amsterdam, and understanding that when you aren't connected these days, you are as good as dead, so I had to come to the Apple store to link up.   I think I am about ready to begin my next work, which I think may be my last work, the Sandy book, redone with a more truthful head.  Sandy was my great, in the true sense of the word, friend, the journalist who covered my Oscar party for Time Magazine, a moment I considered greatness because I was so publicity hungry, and it came in the midst of my success with The Pretenders.  But Sandy and I became genuine.. what?  what is the word for buddies who are not exactly buddies, because that is too carefree a word when both women are aiming for something.  I was aiming for recognition, and she was arcing her way towards absolute truth, being a clear-seeing, clear-writing woman, the first of her sex to be a bureau chief for Time, a magazine that has, like everything else major in print, become more or less extinct.  She was on the plane with Aquino when he returned to the Phillipines to challenge Marco and was assassinated, recorded his murder, and was the key witness in the trial of General Ver, who I believe ordered and managed his murder.  She later became the heroine in raising Corey Aquino to a greatness she could not maintain.
     Sandy herself was later assassinated in Bali. I was there, trying to nail the low level rat who did it and of course got away with it, because there is nothing that cannot be paid off in Bali.  He is still running around loose, probably living off money she might have left him, because that was the only thing I saw more clearly than she did: how unworthy of her he was.  
     But that's the thing about the world, isn't it?  There just don't seem to be enough great partners for those who deserve them. 
   Well, I'm 84% charged up.  There's a motif for 2014.  Have my ticket for the Louvre upstairs, so I guess it's time to move on.  Or up.  If only I had brought my charger with me.  If only we were all basically connected to the energy that keeps us going. 

Sunday, July 06, 2014

A RAINY DAY IN AMSTERDAM

So it is cold here, gloomy, after a very bright day where I felt good, correct to be here, having an adventure in an old hotel I visited when I was writing travel for the Wall Street Journal Europe, a paper I am not even sure is still in business.  
   Actually went to a museum, a furnished house the garden of which I had peered at from the outside, through a gate, met a lovely woman and, so emboldened, visited my old haunt, the Grand Hotel de L'Europe, heard a fine pianist/composer in the lounge, felt a bolt of my old chutzpah and planned to go back today and swim in the very small pool that I dipped into when Swimming Through Europe for my old friend Jim, who is no longer with the paper as I'm not sure the paper is, either.  Am suddenly a little scared, wondering what exactly I am doing here, here this peaceful place I thought would be a fine setting for writing my memoir,-- but now realize I hate the word, find it pretentious.  Not even sure I want to write it, as stimulating and interesting and... lucky, I think, I add it all up to be.  After all... Don, Cary Grant, John Dean in the house next door, my country still surviving, even though I am appalled and bored by the constant solicitation for money from the Democrats. Surprised to be so affected by the weather, after I found it so challenging, as they say in New York, to be so uplifted though made slightly uncomfortable by the heat and brightness of the day.
   Saddened by a series of e-mails from my daughter in the course of which she drove herself Mad, so expect no good ending from that quarter.  My son continues to be bright and borderline witty on occasion, so that is heartening, as living this high above a canal gives you a glimpse of the Eternal, which you realize you won't have forever, so it isn't Really.  
     Am also somewhat lifted by a review in The New Yorker, which happily I found at Filter, the coffee shop next door, where you never find anything to read besides Dutch, of the new act by Chrissie Hines, so I feel a small part of my life (The Pretenders, she told me once when I stood by her in a club, was named after my novel) has survived even though I have lost my husband, my dogs, and a fraction of my children.   Am also heartened at the prospect of a visit to Copenhagen to see the wonderful couple and children I picked up in New York and thought would brighten that city and lift it for a long time to come, but am selfishly glad for myself that they will be over here, and I am invited to visit.  It is strange how lonely you become even after a determination to not allow yourself to feel lonely, and a conviction after almost a lifetime of travel that it is second nature to you.  Especially when you seem to have lost touch with the first one.  

MORNING IN THE MARKETPLACE

So having received a few e-mails from friends, I am SURE they were, who thought from the tone of my last few Reports that I was sad, depressed, or dispirited, all of which missiles served to make me sad, depressed, though not dispirited because the truth is I think I am okay, though a wee bit isolated, and a Certain Age.  Like those of you who actually read these things, I, too, find myself puzzled at my being here, since it is nowhere I was actually headed, but just ended up.  Very like the Apple store, my headquarters when actually on my way somewhere or at least hoping I seem so as it is in the center of town-- I think,  -- and a good place to work out of since I have no idea where I am going, if anywhere.  
     This is what I would venture to call marking time, something it seems less than wise to be marking at this turn of my road.  I had a beautiful dinner last night with my new friend Sam, a lovely neighbor who took pity on me after I rang her bell, and seemed and WAS somewhat lost.  We had a bicycle-cart tour of the neighborhood before going to one of her mothers' home to dine, with a very talkative driver who found himself and his opinions more interesting than the neighborhood, which appraisal I didn't share.
       One of her mothers is not a grammatical error, or, I don't think, a humanistic one.  This is a curious civilization, where people seem to fall in and out of love and not worry about the rules as we observe them or pretend to in the US, and few are those who seem to marry their partners, even after having children with them, at that point moving on but going back for Sunday night dinners if they have stayed friend-ish, and splitting custody unless of course there is hostility or they have told the judge something sad while weeping, which I have advised one of the fathers to do if he wants to spend some time with his little girls, because that's what his ex-patner did.  As it was, he had to sit in the balcony of a movie theatre peering over the railing for a glimpse of his daughters, which I found sad and discomfiting and they weren't even mine.
     I know three fathers like that, and I haven't even been here long. There's Daniel, my big hero, the Englishman I sat next to on the plane from Glasgow, who has so far befriended and guided me while remaining funny and seemingly inspired, Arthur, the burly black from Africa, who has skills I do not begin to understand, and Peter, the sweet Dutch guy who was leaning over the balcony railing, whose partner left him for another man, which seems to be a local virus. But I do not suffer too much for him because he loved her because of her ass, and not having one, I cannot relate to that form of attachment. My darling Don, who, strangely, I still miss with a present presence, told me once if I only had an ass I would be Sophia Loren, but then he was, in his Bronx way, a poet as well as a movie-goer.  
    So here I am in the Apple store, at the table marked 'Open Training,' as much or more my home as my apartment, which is genuinely beautiful where I hope you all will come.  As several times noted, I have no real idea what brought me to Amsterdam, but as I believe in Divine Guidance, I would like to think there is Good to come from it, hopefully in the way of some writing that will be higher/clearer/more lustrous than any I might have done elsewhere, wherever elsewhere was.  I do know it could not have been New York, because the darkness that has covered that city and what used to be my country is palpable, if you can actually FEEL darkness, and what I see out of my window there makes me sad, it is so lifeless and dirty.   I used to feel so grateful that my view there was actually of and over a rooftop.  But now it is cluttered in an ugly, disinterested way, ropes and ladders and tossed-off pieces of things that didn't matter, nothing serving any purpose, and in the near distance the towering, dopey building from which the crane fell, and from which other things will doubtless fall in days to come.
   I, though, will try and stay somewhat secured in days to come, by attaching myself to my new environs, and the people I find therein.

Monday, June 30, 2014

LEARNING TO LOVE ALBERT HINES

So there is this chain of groceries apparently started by a Dutchman who was the Abraham Lincoln of food in the Netherlands, AH, with symbolic little hamsters I started out loathing, as they are big-toothed and grinning on all the plastic bags, but of whom(which?) I have started to feel rather fond.  This is a truly strange country, resolute in its determination to stay independent and important, no matter how much the world has changed and Holland has fallen behind in the discovering-what-the-world-is-about and what-other-countries-are-out-there department.  You cannot get a charge account at Albert Hines unless you have a Dutch bank account, and you cannot get a Dutch bank account, oh no, unless you commit yourself to a Dutch life, and you cannot commit, and so on, unless unless unless.
   I of course cannot commit to anything except possibly an asylum, as my life and my feelings are so uncertain.  I am so disappointed in my own country and what is happening or not happening there, everything dependent on how much money is being spent on what candidate where, our poor befuddled president having to take on the Koch family which is apparently even larger and richer than we imagine, and is of course pronounced Cock and that's all I'll say about that.  
     But I am, of course, a friend of Benjamin Franklin's, as well as Nick Clooney, George's dad, who had a radio show in Cincinnatti that was my favorite to do, because he was so bright and interested and always read the books when you would go on the road and do radio shows to promote your books when people still read them, and there were pages to turn.  Ben's self-writ epitaph, the one he left when he thought he might die even though he believed in reincarnation, was on the wall of the airport in Covington, Kentucky, which was where you had to fly to do the Nick Clooney show.  And it said, as I remember, I hope well

    Here lies B. Franklin, printer, food for worms.  But he will return in a new and better edition, created and edited by
                         THE AUTHOR

by which I assume he meant God, in Whom he devoutly believed, even while probably believing, even as he was shtupping the nuns in France, that that God was best manifested in himself, an egotistic concept that I'll go along with, even as today's young women likely believe it is George Clooney.
     George Clooney, as you may also know, all three of you who may have been following this blog, is also my taxi driver here in Amsterdam, as I have been fortunate enough to connect with a genuinely cute man who is truly a ringer for that filmic sweetheart, and kind of a doll in real life, too, I would suspect, having met George when he was hawking his movie, Good Night and Good Luck in New York, and finding him beyond or perhaps above gracious, actually saying to me "You're lovely," which set me up for a couple of years even beyond when it probably no longer applied. Amber, my adorable friend who worked at the hotel I stayed at when first going back to LA, and has remained a true buddy and I hope will visit me here, dated him when he stayed at the hotel where he was on location, and assured me that the dispiriting rumors about him are NOT true.  So we can relax, those of us no matter how old who want to believe there are some straight men left in the world.
      I am trying to find some sensible reason to be in Amsterdam after being unable to answer intelligently the query of the manager of the Gym downstairs, which I am joining as of tomorrow in hopes of staying alive, "What brought you to Amsterdam?" The wise-ass response, of course, "a plane."  But I would like to think it was something more.  That there is here a REASON, some energy or wisdom floating above these canals that I can benefit greatly from, and give some energy and wisdom back.
    But it is hard not knowing, though the truth is how much do any of us really know about anything, with certainty.  I don't even know where the woman is I thought I made friends with who sent me several e-mails approximating a wish to be connected, and said she was coming to lunch, so I bought all this stuff at Albert Hines, and now here it is, 1:23, and my doorbell hasn't rung, and I have all these cheeses and meats I didn't even know what they were laid out on several parsleyed and graped trays, and nobody has come.  Oh, well.  It could have been worse.  I could have been in a town where George Clooney was on location, and then he left and found somebody else, and now they were at the Villa D'este.  
    I've been there.  I think it's overrated.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

AN OWL IN THE MARKETPLACE

Holding myself in, from the Bazaar that somehow fills, for a moment, the emptiness that one feels in a foreign land, no matter how adventurous the spirit or how beautiful the setting one sees from a terrace overlooking a canal with resident birds, I manage not to buy too much, if you don't count the gold-lame fretted oversized shirt.  But I did buy a little (is it brass?) owl, first, because it is the symbol of Bryn Mawr where I just missed my big Reunion to come here(was it a mistake?  I mean, not just the missing, but the coming here?) and second, the badge of Wisdom.
   So I am remembering one of my-- what are they-- messages? aphorisms? sayings? from the Book of Mimi,  a little compendium of thoughts from a higher level, they seemed to be when she had them, that had brilliant pictures of her-- they could not help being brilliant, she was such a photogenic, adorable doggie- with thoughts that were equally as bright, because they came from her-- or was it him--? Happy, the dog that preceded her, who was just as smart?  As my Aunt Rita said, when I sorrowed over my children: "But you've been very lucky with your dogs."  I was going to do a book with that title, but it was around the time when books started to die, so I gave up the idea.  But here's the saying:

      Wisdom is what, by the time you get it, you may not
      remember what it was.

So it is that I gaze on my little brass owl, and wonder.. if?  or Huh?
     It is so hard to keep your bearings when you aren't sure what they are.  Fucking Fedex has failed to leave the packet containing the papers I need to sign for my children's (and mine, I suppose, too, if the provisions aren't too unloving) inheritance, so I will have a sleepless weekend that was kicked off by a half-viewing of Jersey Boys-- I couldn't stand to stay for the whole movie, it was so spiritually lifeless, when the show had been so much fun, and the only heavy hit I had had in later life was from Joe Pesci, whose beady eyes signaled  lust-- and of course I am wracked with insecurities about whether this sojourn was a mistake, or a pellet of ethereal Wisdom tossed at me by a compassionate universe.
      They left no instructions, the soon-to-go-out-of-business- I- wouldn't- be- surprised- in- view- of- the- internet Fedex, except what came to me on my phone a day later in Dutch, like anyone would understand the language who didn't live here or Wasn't.  Even I, past master of many foreign tongues, have difficulty getting my ears around this one, I who actually learned to speak German, especially when beered up.  So for all the challenges I have taken on, why this one?  Well you may ask, and I ask myself.  Answer: Where else am I going to go?
     L.A. my lease, as you know, was cancelled, as a neighbor reported I was singing.  New York I look out on a rooftop cluttered with citified garbage, tattered ladders and buildings going up in the distance obliterating what is left of sky, so high that if the land shifts, as the landlords probably already do, everything will topple, as pieces of them already have.   Except for Jeannie in the basement and Cerene who comes to clean, and Ava down the hall who is 4 and doesn't know you're not supposed to talk to people unless they are in your circle or financial strata, I am alone in New York, and having just opted out of my Bryn Mawr reunion to make this exploratory journey, the chance of reconnecting with my East Coast friends is considerably diminished, as are my hopes of the Republicans easing up and letting it be America.
    I am so sad for my good friend Benjamin Franklin who believed in reincarnation, and hope he did not choose this time to come Back.  I am also sad for myself having just read the review of the revival of 'The King and I' in Paris, where the mere reportage of hearing 'Something Wonderful' brought tears to my eyes.  And I realized what I lost in life, probably never to be recovered, was fulfilling my great ambition,  musical comedy.  Everybody was so sure all those years ago, when I finished Bryn Mawr, that I would have a musical on Broadway, after almost having left college early.  I had passed Miss McBride, our president, in the hallway of the library, and said "Miss McBride, Shakespeare and Chaucer have given me all they can, and the theater needs me.  So I'm leaving Bryn Mawr."  "Well, Gwen," she drawled in her high line Main line manner, "try to be back for exams."
   I mean, think about it: Frank Loesser, that gifted swine, saying "Kid, you're the biggest talent since me."  And Yip Harburg, saying "those are as fine lyrics as any I have ever heard."  Maybe I could stop short of actually believing, but I certainly could hope.
    But the road of Optimism grows shorter and more rutted as you get to this point in it.  So I am scared, and, at this point, having missed Fedex which didn't even leave a note because people don't do that anymore, I am really pissed, a word I don't like to use because it isn't pretty or mellifluous but who even cares about words like that anymore? I am SO from another time, I who was always the youngest in my class.  But my class is now passed, and re-uned, and, apparently over.  Shit.  Another terrible word, but it does express it.
    I am exhorted by a new friend, a doctor in this building but he is currently in Dubai so what good does that do me? to try and be more positive.  I have been positive for the major part of my life, in spite of abusive and/or unloving parents one of whom I adored in spite of how crazy she was, the other who took himself more seriously than even Teddy Roosevelt at the height of his over-eloquence.  But the reality is now that I am in TRULY a foreign land, which includes not only the geography, but age with its weaknesses and uncertainties (how long?)  And even worse, how realistic is it to hope you can get a musical on, when they are only really welcome as grand revivals in Paris of hits from the '50s?  And what if that was actually your Time, and you missed it?  Although, when you think about it, you DID know Marlon Brando when he was still beautiful, and he DID make personal fun of you, and there has to be some satisfaction in that.  And there WAS Cary Grant on your telephone.