Thursday, December 14, 2017

PICKING UP PEOPLE

What still works better in New York than anyplace else is picking up people.  Better even than usual is when there are blustery winds and folks, as newscasters try to call them in their hope of trying to make all this sound connected and friendly, move into coffee shops and bump into other people, as I did today.  Two very sharp and attractive women, one with tiny scarf covering her head, the other dark hair newly washed and almost in her soup, so intense was their conversation.
     It was, that portion I caught of it at least, about Donald Trump, that name held so high in his own limited attention span, that we too lightheartedly laughed off in its earliest emergence, thinking America was too bright to let this happen.   How could it have?
    Anyway, they were lovely, and as this was their first actual meeting, abetted by my intrusion from the next small table, intense and sadly joyous, as most enlightened conversation seems to be these days.  Those of us who love our country for the right reasons are forced to observe it like the soap opera he is making this portion of history into, assuming we survive.  "Joyous", as he would put it, probably in caps, because at least people are waking up, as proven by the numbers that made it to the election and squeaked it into turning out the right way.  Or, more aptly, the moderate one.  I had a dream in which Benjamin Franklin, who believed in reincarnation, so I frequently see him as here, and wish he were, gives a sigh of relief.
     Where it will all go from here is, of course, a puzzle.  I trust none of it, and wish my friends who loved country above party were still alive and in Washington.  But close as it is to Christmas,
I don't think there is a Santa Claus, and there is a Donald Trump.
      Such a bad scenario.  If only there were a better Editor.  Maybe there is.  We shall see.  Providing we still have eyes and he hasn't sold us to another country.
      

Sunday, November 19, 2017

REPORTFROMTHEFRONT: The God Within

So as I continue my struggle to find out where I belong, if one is supposed to belong in one place, I attended my Quaker meeting this morning and that certainly ain't it. First, there is the reality of Memory, which, though I was given a Still There by the Memory doctor, is better when there is someone else nearby who remembers, is best in another place, spiritually anyway.  The Quaker Meeting in New York is absent of soul, but may be intensified by the truth that I can hear almost nothing.  There are many rows of built-in bench, and a small number of people who also appear built in, none of their backs particularly inspiring, and I leave hungering for my little Meeting in Santa Monica.  So along with my growing affection for my Grandboys, I have a hunger for connection with my West Coast spiritual buddies.  Also I found out after leaving that meeting that the woman there who seemed smartest and most intense had gone to Bryn Mawr, so am hoping that pinky touch of No Kidding! can be re-established.  And the colder it grows, the older I realize I am, the most happily spoiled by weather all these years I didn't have much to cling to, if you can be said to cling to air.
    Then I stopped in a food place on 57th street and enjoyed myself as I rarely do, or at least haven't done since I used to go south towards San Diego of a Sunday.  Eating all kinds of thing I wouldn't dare usually, imagining the place had just opened, only to discover on departure that it had been there for 18 years.  None of this is particularly exciting except as an alert that my spirit has been slumbering, if that's how I can describe it, assuming or probably more accurately hoping it hasn't died.  If I stayed here I would probably chub up, as fooding is the most sociable---it seems-- activity I have found, since the Y hasn't spoken to my soul, if I still have one.  A soul, that is, since we can be sure there is a Y.
    Oh please, God, tap me on the mind.  Let me know I am still here, and there is a reason to be.  It is quietly dazzling to discover you are still here when you thought you were gone.  And there is even a song, the other side of this, even after you have less than delighted in Brigadoon, though were happy to have seen it, City Center being so close, even though your own center seemed so far away.  You can remember a friendship with the tossed away Mrs. Alan Jay Lerner, the lovely Nancy Olsen, who was told by him that he couldn't live without Micheline, then seeing her on a side street in the south of France a few years later, withered.  The universe does seem to mete out Justice.
     

WHAT THE HELL: Why Not?

So I have lowered my head against the wind, and my expectations, bought an overpriced book (Callas) at one of the few remaining independent bookshops in Manhattan, have given up hope of a predictable schedule, (pronounced the British way,) and decided not to run away, not today anyway.  Somewhere inside me I am borderline terrified, as I have not been this old before and am surprised to still feel girlish.  You never change from inside your eyes.

     In the same book batch that I found Callas, I found a much cheaper little volume by Thornton Wilder, who at one time I imagined myself to be like, creatively anyway, full of bright imaginings as I was, not having come to terms with the truth that I would probably never find the creative partner for my soul.  I was a little girl for a very long time, the happy conviction that I would be able to fulfill myself as a dreamer who could write and be realized, exacerbated by a novel, Sweet William, being optioned when I was in my early twenties (Sweet William), going back to my high school (Cherry Lawn, Darien, Connecticut, the capital of anti-Semitism in America, and us mostly Jewish kids, put out on the hill by confused or incompetent parents) for a movie that never got made (the star went to another film instead, taking the money and the deal with him.) I still get flashes of memory of the long weekend when it was still going to happen, and Bazz Burwell, my wondrous once drama teacher, sat musing , his fine face in his fingertips, and seeing me seeing him softly said, "I was just remembering you as a student."  I really loved him but didn't have the money he needed, so the relationship didn't continue, the school went out of business, and I still don't know if the Carter Burwell creatively in the movie business is his son.  "Age cannot wither nor custom stale her infinite variety" Shakespeare wrote of Antony musing on Cleopatra, but the relationship must not have gone on long enough.

          Oh, Life she am a puzzle. As is this instrument of writing I am not quite sure what to call, typewriter that she really isn't.  Laptop, I guess.   Just as I am unable to maintain true sovereignty over the size of the print. 
       I could take it back to the Apple store, mercifully not that far away from the apartment left me by Maman, as I think of her in affected recollection, in spite of her oft murmured threats that she wouldn't, including once as she awakened from a coma.  "You're not getting the apartment!" she grunted, before even opening her eyes.  
      I have to guess she really loved me, as much or as well as she could, having sold, lost or profligated everything she had, from the diamonds to the Jackson Pollock, The Blue Unconscious, 8 x 12, feet that is, which I slept under when home from school once she'd married Puggy, and turned it (and him) on its side("What difference does it make?"she'd said.)  He had gone to school with Clement Greenberg, the art critic, who'd gotten Puggy (Saul Schwamm he was to fellow brokers who'd mostly had their backs to him, since he was a Jew) to buy the painting as he was the only one with any money.  When their marriage ended... he'd fled, left everything, and she, a child of the Depression, had panicked and sold everything in the huge Park Avenue apartment for peanuts, almost literally, the Pollock for ten thousand.  It is now worth maybe two hundred million.  Maybe more  by the time you're reading this.  Gag.  Oh, well.
       It's only money.
       Cost me only a hundred and ten dollars to go to the Christmas show at Radio City.  I thought (not sure) I had gone there as a little girl, with my daddy, as I called him and was sure he was, except I liked my mother better, cruel though she was.  Cruel is a heavy-handed, heavy-hearted word, but it applied to her.  She was beautiful and brilliant, the first after minor plastic surgery: nose.  Incredible eyes and a dazzling smile.  Only one cavity her whole life.  
      There had to have been something truly mentally ill about her, as she was disproportionately smart, and had times been different probably could have become the head of General Motors.  As it was, she knew how to downcast those eyes.  But no idea how to look up into herself to become.
      Poor Mama.  Probably she was as enraged as she was having spent all those lunchtimes in a cubicle toilet in a bathroom at 
school, eating the sandwich Grandma Gussie had made her, saving the two dimes, giving them, all added up, to Grandpa when she'd graduated.
        Writing this, remembering as best I can, I am touched that she was only as crazy as she was.  And only part of the time.  Even more moved  by how much in love they must have been, a few years later,  Puggy the self-made Jew on Wall Street, Helen the social director she'd become after the struggle upwards from secretary she'd learned to be on the train as we Southerned towards Florida from Pittsburgh that winter.  I'd turned five but had to pretend to be four as we didn't have the money for the ticket.  Already knowing how to read,  I could dictate to her as she practiced  shorthand, and we moved towards her improbable Destiny.
      

Friday, November 10, 2017

So to my happy surprise, I am starting to be glad to be in New York.  I spent this... I guess it is: Holiday weekend, and the day after in this allegedly festive town where I have been sullenly less than glad, running into some really nice people, some of them picked up in coffee shops which you can do here, and on the streets themselves where there were parades and races and quests for merriment.  Forgive me, Universe, for doubting.  I would not like to blame it on Donald Trump, but I could.
    In any and all events, I have beamed onto some really good spots, that carried on them some truly nice people, seen a good ballet, The Red Shoes, the stage adaptation, of my high school roommates obsession. It was not as engaging as my high school roommate, Lenny Landau, Leonara she was actually, who had a life in the theatre, semi-sort of, and with whom I reconnected for not long enough as I really liked her, and she was married to a creative man and lived in a town house, which seemed very creative to me.
      But the beautiful San Diegan I met in my coffee shop and I have definitely linked up, and it is joyful to make friends, something i hadn't really been doing much except for the people who work in my building.  This is a tough town if you're not going to the right places which seemed to be everywhere i wasn't.  But enough about loneliness. It does take a strong hold, and that pulls you into television and then you grow old.
     Am off to a concert now, something I did not often enough since coming here, walking as I've been with downcast eyes, shut ears, and weighted soul.  See you later, I hope.

So alas, I missed a day.  Two now.  May I come back this evening.

So when I got to the restaurant, late, which I didn’t mean to make intentional, it just takes longer to get someplace on foot than I remembered, or maybe the foot is just slower, it was closed.  Not permanently, just for the day, or maybe the Universe toying with my sense of attachment, imagining that things were supposed to work out, even though it was New York.  So I walked over to Lincoln Center, hoping to find/bumpinto them, sprawling though that setting is, wandered around, spoke to some kind people working windows where ‘No,’ there was no ticket for me, went over to the coffee shop where I saladed next to a kind couple from outside the city as many seem to be on a concert night, went to the ticket window, bought one for myself, when the woman of the couple came to the window and offered me a ticket as a child hadn’t shown up.  So I returned my bought ticket, to the annoyance of the woman in the window(No, not the movie of that name, if you are old enough to remember) and went inside and up to sit with my new, generous friends.   
      Concert great, I thought, though twas just the first half, met another wondrous couple, European, elderly as apparently I am, too, went back in and was impressed by the performance of Jeremy Irons as I always am, as he stays masterful and doesn’t age, especially from the good balcony. Afterwards went down where two aging Brooklyn women were arguing the spiritual applicability of the piece we had just heard.  I hadn’t judged it for God rules but just theatre.  Pretty good, I’d thought, but what do I know.  Then I’d wandered down, had a nice exchange with a young viola-ist, and ambled down the street and into a cab to go home, as I’m trying to make it.  Got to my door when I’d dug into my sleeve and not found my earmuffs, the fur accessory to my silver-fox trimmed jacket, all I have left of unnecessary luxury, having sent my ground-length red-dyed mink to a cleaners that has closed and disappeared, but hey, I was fearful of that ensemble anyway.  I can remember having worn it only once when Maman, who had given it to me told me “Wear it with nothing underneath, as you have no taste in clothes.”
    Now, fearful of having lost the earmuffs, having given away most of the many furs Maman had had and passed down, I taxied back to Lincoln Center, where the muffs weren’t on the ground, found a security guard who let me back into the center where I searched for my headpiece to no avail, took a taxi back to home, which I am still trying to make it, and no, no one had come to leave the earmuffs, went upstairs having resigned myself to the loss, trying to figure which earmuffs I might wear with it even though they weren’t a true matching accessory,  took my fox-fur trimmed cape off, and went to hang it in the closet, when all the way up on my shoulder I found the earmuffs.  Am I that old, or is my upper arm that insensitive?
    In any case, I regard it all as a Victory.  I have made new friends— I received an e-mail from the nice couple who’d invited me to concert and then the restaurant had been closed, and we hadn’t found each other, we shall meet again, my new wondrous buddy from Florida who feels like a contemporary from inside my eyes, my doorman seems always glad to see me, and it looks like Trump is on his way out, though it ain’t going to be easy. 

LOVE AND GRATEFUL KISSES.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Where Do We Go to Scream?

So as it turns out, this Rube isn't really president.  The fascist who runs him is.
   I just got back from my Quaker Meeting.  Don, my darling husband, too long late, said I should introduce myself as a Quaker-Buddhist-Jew: "That will really confuse them."  But it doesn't confuse me.  Quaker is what I am when I go very deep and quiet.  Buddhist is what I am when I am around Jack, my teacher and friend and a really wise, touching, funny man.   He is not doing very well with all of this either. I don't think anybody is doing well who can really feel.
   And Jew is what you never really lose if you are born into it, as it will pursue you in places you didn't know had anti-Semitism.
    What an incredible time.  I feel Quakerly arms around me.  Impelled to get up for a change, I had to go to Meeting this morning as I am so... what?  Anxious is too easy a word.  That anyone is paying real attention to this... again, what?  Moron? Lout? Swine?   The people who support him, in the little towns, are not evil.  They just have no idea.  No idea what he really thinks, if he thinks anything besides 'Me, Me, Me.'
      I am not afraid so much as numbed by sorrow.  Heartened by the soft but firm undercurrent of sadness at my Quaker Meeting, I am almost confident this will be well dealt with, except that I fear that Evil, which I don't mean to capitalize but have to, will find insidious ways to subvert and foil.  There is such strength in Quakerly belief.  The power of Silence.  If only we could muffle him.
     I do not hope for his assassination, as Pence is worse, and being smarter would be more effective, and deadlier.  Oh, God, if you are there, and I really believe you are, especially in Meeting, Do SOMETHING.  And let it be comic.

Friday, January 13, 2017

A WEDDING

So I am inspired and amused by the news that they have a TV movie, FEUD, about Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. 
 When I was getting ready, organized and spirited to marry Don, I went to the Plaza to book the place where we would be married, on a day when my mother couldn’t have my father arrested for failure to pay child support, for me.  I was 29.
  I put that in numbers rather than words because it makes it look the more stupid and ridiculous, both of which it was.  My mother had been suing him from the time I was a child, when he owed it, and ducked it, everywhere he went, which included Tucson 
where he’d gone because Selma couldn’t breathe.  She was his wife, and had been a friend of my mother’s to whom she’d introduced him because she was sure Selma would mean his death.   Instead, they’d fallen in love and he’d moved there and become Mayor.  He’d never been in politics, or a Republican, both of which he did, apparently it never being too late in life to change your skin. 

     So I went to the Plaza, booked the place for April 28th, and left.  In front of the
elevator stood Bette Davis, a great ribbon on her ass, also great.  If she hadn’t been a movie star, it would have been overwhelming.  I had gone to make the reservation, and told the woman in charge I was Miss Davis, causing some excitement and confusion as Don had announced himself as Miss Davis’ s fiancee, and they thought he meant Bette, who had an appointment at the same time. 

       Having been emboldened by the large, sequin-bordered ribbon on her butt, I told The Bette of the confusion.  She’d said in true Bette style: “How (breath)…very (breath)… amusing.”  It was almost as memorable as the wedding.

The process server my mother had gotten to serve my father had to wait outside the wedding the whole day for it to turn midnight so he could serve 
him, as you couldn’t be served on a Sunday.  Inside, all those there sat on which
side of the aisle and lawsuit they were.
   
      It was not a huge cast, but it WAS colorful.  Sue Mengers, later to become a major Showbiz Celeb, was among those present, being at the time a close friend which she could be until it wasn’t convenient.  Also there were my close friends from Bryn Mawr and David Begelman, later to commit suicide. 

 
     My mother and my father sat on different sides of the aisle, along with their newer, present partners, and my father-in-law Harry who’d gotten us the champagne wholesale.

         I have been told often in life, at least the earlier part of it, of my penchant for
comedy.  The truth is I never have to make anything up.  What I am handed in life,
or have always been proffered, is plot, my weakest suit. 

Saturday, January 07, 2017

A KESEY LOOK-ALIKE

So I am feeling in an unaccustomedly creative mood-- unaccustomed because who has felt inspired with what has been going on with our manipulated and potentially disastrous politics-- when I open this week's New Yorker, and there is an article about writer-director Mike Mills, and his film, 20th Century Women.  He looks exactly, from the angle they have him, like Ken Kesey who was a great friend of mine when I went for my Master's Degree in Creative Writing at Stanford under the allegedly great writer  Wallace Stegner, except he was on sabbatical but they didn't tell me that till after I had paid my tuition, which they wouldn't give back.  It was a dedicated and hilarious, if less than greatly productive time, and I probably wrote a book or two about it that I don't remember, as I am don't remembering many things at this point, but I am still ahead of Kesey, though he is better known and loved, since I am alive.  I think.
      I had what I hope is a really good idea for a comedy, and if I can remember, I may indeed write it, and if there is a comedy god, Susan Sarandon will play the lead, who is, indeed, based on me, as a gifted Goy.  I can say that it begins with an older woman strolling the beach, telling a much younger woman of her great love, who died early on, not that long after the relationship had just begun to mature.  The rest I can't tell because that is what makes it clever and fresh and ripe for theft.  Not that anyone necessarily reads these things, but you never know, especially with the accessibility of the Internet, and Donald Trump coming to office.
     What a time.  It is not easy to be an American who loves and prizes her country, and, when she was much younger, believed in reincarnation.  I used to think I had been friends in a previous life with Benjamin Franklin who really did.  But I hope for his sake, and that of probably the rest of us, that I was wrong.  To have been as smart, wise and creative as he was, and have to come back for this shit would be indefensible.
     How will it all turn out?  Will anyone be alive to know?  What will she wear to his funeral?