Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Wherever You Go, There You Are

So I have left the cold, weatherwise and personal,of New York to return for a while to LA, where I know to expect emptiness. On the way out I flew Jet Blue and tuned to the Fox Movie Channel which back-to-back showed first Carousel, and then The King and I. So I had a coast-to-coast weep, for the beauty of the songs, for the death of the American musical as we knew it, including mine own, which I understand now I must give up on, seeing what's happened on Broadway. Landing in a fog, the weather's, not mine, I drove North with a quiet ferocity, since my assignment for Christmas dinner with friends was Cranuberry Much, something I learned to make in a cooking course in DC during the Carter administration, which included a Thanksgiving dinner with grits. But the stores were all closed, so I couldn't buy cranberries, and Ralph's, which was open, closed its doors just as I pulled up. I pleaded, but they said their cash register was broken, so so was that bubble.
Christmas Day I joined my wonderful friends who had exiled me last summer because of the Reports, Republicans who wrote me they were inflamatory with one 'm' and I didn't correct the spelling. But life is short and growing shorter, and the woman, my best friend at Bryn Mawr, had a health crisis so we healed it, and I went to their daughter's Christmas as I had last year, when the husband, Rummy's good right arm, raised his glass to the Republic and to those who had fallen in her defense and I gagged visibly and asked some searing questions, but this year kept my mouth shut. That discretion did not extend to the gift I received from their beautiful child, whom I love, but gave me a poetry book by Maya Angelou with whom I have a great deal of history and know how full of merde she is, although no longer in Paris. God Bless America, truly the land of opportunity especially if you are revered by Oprah.
Mimi was wearing her fur collar from her godmother who espouses simplicity but apparently not in dogs, and was loved by all.We returned to the apartment rented from a friend I will not name as the joint is out of joint, as Shakespeare might have put it if he was a little less clear. I had planned to clear my own head/soul via a daily morning swim as I did last year in Bali, but of course the pool is not heated and it's cold here, though nowhere as cold as New York. I have to get a parking permit daily, as there's no room in her garage. The TV doesn't work, but last night my friend Joie came for dinner bought at Whole Foods which charged me $5.99 apiece for papayas that were supposed to be 2 for $2.99 but I caught them, (Whole in LA apparently doesn't mean what it does in the spiritual realm.) Joie figured out how to work the VCR and we found tapes of the great old series The Prisoner, with Patrick McGoohan, so after she left I watched the first episode. And I was young again, and Don was still alive, and the two of us enjoyed what was without question the most innovative and commanding show on TV. It was all shot in the village of Port Merrion, an actual place built by an inspired, apparently very rich lunatic in Wales, that I visited during my Oxford summer, after Don had died. I don't know how anyone can really live there.
Then the VCR stopped working, and there was nothing for it but to be with my own thoughts which boiled down to this, that i wrote on the top of The New York Times because I couldn't find a piece of paper: 'A Life well lived, with all its pain, loneliness, silences when you would have noise, and noise when you would have silence.'
Then I wrote "Life at base is a..." and then a word i cannot read. I have studied it for many an hour, but cannot make it out. I think it begins with a p, but cannot be sure because I scrawled it in the dark. Perhaps it will haunt me the rest of my life. Perhaps I had the answer to everything, the riddle of the Sphinx, the reason for it all. But if I did, it has eluded me, as, I suppose, all great answers to everything are meant to,
But I did manage to write in the book I finally found, a gift from Mimi's indulgent friend, something I can read:
The test here is to love life with all its difficulties, its irritations, its disappointments and challenges, its rude awakenings, and to feel absolute ecstasy in those rare moments when things go right.
Much love to all of you, and a better year to come.

Monday, December 19, 2005

A Chip off the old Aunt

Unaccustomed as I am to public name-dropping, filled with loathing for the celebrity culture we have become, with Nick and Jessica on every newstand and who the fuck are they anyway and what have they done, by the way? the moment does come once in a while, where, in my serendiptious fashion, I cross paths with someone noted who is worth paying attention to. Thus it was that I went with my beloved friends, Joe and Shirley Wershba, great journalists and arguably even greater human beings who worked with EdwardR.Murrow and thus became characters in and consultants to Goodnight and Good Luck, to a screening of that remarkable movie at the Writer's Guild, with George Clooney and crew doing Q & A afterwards.
For those of you who have been victimized by these reports for many a year, you will remember that at the height of my frustration at not being able to get anyone to listen to my musical;('What are you doing writing music?' gravelled Jimmy Nederlander, 'You're a bookwriter!) I wandered into a grocery store in Beverly Hills during this selfsame season, my hissy fit intensified by the fact that there were no Christmas Carols anywhere, and heard them at last. Someone was singing along with the Muzak. Turning the corner I saw Rosemary Clooney, pushing her cart and singing 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing.' I went over and introduced myself to her, and said I wanted to talk to her about something. She said "Good." Then I said "I think God sent me in here," and she replied "I believe in that." So I told her about my musical,and a few days later she came to my house and I played the score for her. She laughed and she cried and said all the right things: "Usually when you have lyrics this good, you have to make musical sacrifices; but that isn't the case here," she soothed on. "This would be a great singing experience."
A while afterwards,I wrote her a letter asking if she would consider recording some of the songs for me. My lawyer negotiated with her manager, and she did them IN EXCHANGE FOR SANDWICHES FOR THE MUSICIANS. I capitalize that info for you to emphasize and make clear what an amazing soul she was, and what a generous heart. When she did a concert in San Francisco I went backstage, and she introduced me to her friends as :"One of the great songwriters of all time." There are certain phrases coming from certain people that should put your spirit to rest. I ought to think of that once in a while, when I grind my teeth.
Anyway, in the Q & A, wherein George was as quick and funny as he is great-looking and seeking to do more with his gifts than just be pretty, though that doesn't hurt,someone asked him if he was being audited, and he said "Not yet, but I did do Syriana so I may get an anal probe." Then someone asked why the jazz punctuating the music, and he said, smiling sweetly, "I had an aunt who sang a little jazz."
Cue. Shirley introduced me to him afterwards, and I gave him the CD of Rosie singing my songs, and said "This was a gift to me from your aunt who sang a little jazz, so I'm giving it as a gift to you." He was Adorable+, genuine and smart, and said to me at one point "You're lovely." Rest, rest, per-tur-bed spirit. I shall remember these things and add them all up and try to stop being an assholette about not being able to break into the light, since light comes sometimes in unexpected ways, and in his case pretty darling.
Yesterday I went to an off off off performance of a show by my one-time collaborator when I wrote my first musical, that was supposed to be produced by Kermit Bloomgarden, the great producer of his day which was in my true youth, except that he put all the money he had raised for our show into Mel Brooks' 'Nowhere to Go but Up,' which tanked, taking all our capital with it. Phil's show was especially sad because he was incredibly gifted and wrote many fine songs, especially the ones in our show, an adaptation of Mark Twain's 'Million Pound Note,' and had a couple of big hits, missing from yesterday's dirge-y salute to the Brill Building, where songwriters used to go to flog their tunes. Worst was the last before the intermission, The Highway of Life, about when you see someone with their thumb out pick them up because they may be your chum, with lyrics by my mentor and father-figure when I was a baby,Yip Harburg, who wrote the lyrics for Wizard of Oz, and what remains the #1 song in the history of American songs, 'Over the Rainbow.' There was never a better, wittier poet in songdom than Yip: "As coroner, I Vocifer,I thoroughly examined her,and she is not just merely dead, she's really most sincerely dead." But Yip had a heaviness in him (Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? the best depressed example) so someone needed to be around to feather him up, and poor Phil was clearly not the one to do it, at least not on that highway of life, to which a cast of grateful to be working performers did a step-crosstheankle-step, step crosstheankle step in funereal tempo as if, said my sister-in-law, Arline,'they were serious.' I hope if I live long enough to lose my sense of humor, someone kills me.
But on the way out I introduced Arline to Joe Franklin who was on local TV forever, and he remembered her brother, my husband, from when Don worked at WOR, and even knew how to spell his name,which thrilled her. So no experience is wasted except the one you waste.
And news of a different coin, Joel Iskowitz, the gifted artist who designed the new cover for The Motherland, my best novel which will shortly be re-issued and available on Amazon.com please God, has just had his coin design chosen for the platinum one to be released by the treasury in 2006, that depicts the legislative branch of government. His coin for 2008, depicting the judicial branch, will also be issued. He did not design one for 2007, the executive branch, "for reasons",he said, "that will be obvious."

Thursday, December 08, 2005

New York on a Strange Anniversary

So the air being much less bitter than yesterday, I decided to be the same. It was a walking day, and walking is one of the finest things New York has to offer, there being hardly a block you can go by without discovering something interesting or evocative, provided you can lift your face against a less than Arctic wind. I began my walk at Columbus Circle, finally finished, with a statue saluting Christopher, adding all the scorn and danger he had to face to discover this country, and how belittled he was in spite of giving the world a new world. They have put benches in an arrangement I would know how to describe exactly had I been more attentive during Geometry, with greater gifts for that terrible subject than I possessed. But they are not quite semi-circles, and very welcoming i would imagine when the weather gets better and people want to rest halfway across the street, before tackling the multi-placed white-lined alleged pedestrian crossings to the Time-Warner building which I worry about as it is a new, tall, sparklingly capitalistic target, but no matter. I stopped in to FACE, a dazzling make-up boutique inside the splendiferous mall, to buy Annie Navasky, Victor's wife, some lip gloss called Gracious,since she is, but they were all out of it. Oh well.
Then I started up Central Park West, passed the Century, a building where lived Dorothy Loudon, a greatly talented musical comedy performer who was kind of shelved by the show business crowd when Ballroom failed to be the success it might have been if lofted to the level of her gifts. She told me once that she thought maybe there was something wrong with her answering machine, that there were never any messages on it. I understand the feeling. As writ in these-- what are they? Not exactly pages-- Jules Feiffer said to me "Do your work and your community will find you." Annie Navasky said "He forgot to add:'if you're wildly successful.'" I mentioned once to a friend when passing that building that Dorothy was lonely, and my friend said "Not anymore.". Oh well.
Then I passed Ethical Culture, with its planned sermon for Sunday:' Embracing the Infidel.' Sure.
There were TV cameras and trucks on 72nd Street, helicopters hovering, a line of people gathered outside the Dakota, and I realized that today is the 25th anniversary of John Lennon's being killed. I knew John Lennon for a brief moment, when he was separated from Yoko, hanging out for that evening at the weekend pool-table party of Jack Haley, Jr. He was visibly depressed and drinking heavily, and I thought to ease his anguish by telling him how wonderful he was, how important he was to so many people, how great were his gifts. He finally rose from beneath my barrage of attempted uplift, and said "Gwen... if you really love me, you'll stop talking."
I remember on this day all those years ago, I was on the phone early in the morning with Bethie, a friend from Bryn Mawr, when she told me John had just been shot. Somehow these things are softened when you hear them relayed by someone kind. But it remains to this day very shocking, stupid and pointless. I met the psychologist for the prison where Mark David Chapman was incarcerated, and he told me Chapman got love letters from many women, married one of them, and would get all buffed up when she was coming to visit, but when she left visibly deflated, down to the bone. You wonder sometimes if you believe in a benign universe, which I try to, why it is the murderers who are left alive.
Then I arrived at my true destination, The Museum of Natural History, on the inner walls of which are written many fine things said by Teddy Roosevelt, who rides a metal horse in front of the museum. Character, he said, is what ultimately determines the fate of a nation as well as a person. It would be good if they could lasso the entire congress and walk them by those messages, including the ones Teddy, the great conservationist, gave about our owing future generations. I went upstairs to the dinosaur floor and bought a backpack with scales on it for Lukas, who is six now, and a dinosaur book for Silas, who is two, and can say 'Hello' and 'Goodbye'in exactly that same basso profoundo that his father had at hismost adorable. My wonderful friend Bill McGivern, a mystery writer, long gone,once said he wanted to invent something called 'Staybaby'that you sprayed on them at the perfect time.
Then I told a little boy who was crying that everything would be all right, that he would find the world a very nice place and there was nothing to cry about. He was so stunned that he stopped immediately, and his mother suggested I begin a service,to which she would subscribe.
I took the subway then, that I need to be in a courageous mood to do, but having been counseled by Teddy that that was an aspect of my humanity that I would do well to cultivate, I had it. Went to Lee's Art Store on 57th St and bought some silver spray paint, took it out on my little iron balcony and sprayed all my Thanksgiving leaves that no one had seen and made them Christmas to which you are all invited. Also inadvertently spray-painted my boots. Silver Boots. Silver Boots. It's Christmas time in the city. Well, it almost makes it.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Tis The Season

to be jolly,or depressed, depending on how things have been going,and what prospects there are of their going anywhere else. But tis also the time when the studios glut the writers with movie invitations, so they can get in there in time for nominations. Thus it is that I have been to almost everything, and will herewith give my reviews. Good Night and Good Luck is my top pick, not because George Clooney is not just another pretty face, and is trying really hard to lift the level out there, and maybe even make an important political point, but because it is riveting, smokily on target, and my darling friends Shirley and Joe Wershba, who worked with Murrow and are portrayed in the film by Robert Downey, Jr. and Patricia Carlson, which has given them a new lease on life, especially Shirley, who has probably always wanted to be a blonde. The movie is as intense as that period we lived through as concerned baby girls, which, when contrasted with the present horrors in government seems kind of like a bicycle ride.
Next, I would recommend King Kong, with someone next to you to hide your eyes on, as the violence is excessive--after the dinosaur stampede and fa;lling through chasms there's a cave full of worm things that eat off people's heads while they can still be heard screaming inside the worm,something I could devoutly have done without and children everywhere will be nightmared by. But Naomi Watts is lovely, Peter Jackson is clearly brilliant,though someone should have said 'Enough,' and the guy who played the ape, who was present at the Q&A, and honored by all, especially Naomi who had to do everything against a blue screen but could see his eyes, which gave her ballast, according to her testimonial. Jack Black, too, is surprisingly good, having made the transition from clown to a man of greed quite niftily. Having gone alone,so having no one to be terrified with, I bonded with the SAG member next to me, a black actress named Pat Dixon, so we will be going together to the Sarah Bernhardt exhibition at the Jewish Museum, the exchange being I have to go to the Slavery exhibition at the NY Historical Museum which will probably be wrenching.
Syriana is so intense that even if you watch every single frame as if you were an editor you will still be confused. But an interesting effort. Avert your eyes during the torture scene.
Friday night I'm invited to a big fund raiser for Memoirs of a Geisha, which is both a nice and a very sad thing, as that is the same time as the WGAE party at the Friars, where I wish I could go, but my arrested spiritual development precludes my being in two places at once. Those are the only two invitations I have for the holidays, which makes me feel very sorry for myself, especially when played against a minus 2 centigrade day. I don't know what the fuck I'm doing in New York. I was looking forward to entertaining a friend I made on the Nation cruise, but he opted for a political lecture when I was impelled to go to the screening of Brokeback Mountain. I had to go to that because afterwards there was to be a Q & A with Larry McMurtry, the Pulitzer Prize winning author I have always admired and wanted to meet.
Some years ago, when I was still a hit, I got a fan letter from a woman saying that her favorite authors were Larry McMurtry and me, so I wanted to say hello and tell him that. But as I introduced myself and started to explain who I was, he stopped me and said he knew who I was, that Ken Kesey had given him the novel I wrote about him. This came as an incredible shock for two reasons: first, I hate that book, Someone's in the Kitchen with Dinah, since it is, among all my work the one I would erase,and second because Kesey was so angry when I wrote it that he threatened to sue me.
Back story:Kesey and I were at Stanford in the Creative Writing Program together. He was adorable, funny and wrestler stocky, with tightly curled kinky yellow hair, young Paul Newmanish. He was obviously gifted and boisterous, and lived on Perry Lane, peopled with bright and rebellious cohorts, whom he had organized into what fell just short of being an official association of wife-swappers. He assured me that his wife would welcome me into the club, but I saw the sad look in her eyes when he went off with someone else. Besides I was very young and a bit of a prig. So I resisted his obvious charms until the night he taught me to smoke dope,an event that took place at my house. I had lost my Standard Oil charge card and reported the loss.After Ken and I had done the naughty, both of us stoned, there was a banging on my front door. When I asked who it was,a resonant, deep voice said "Sergeant Riley." I remember the comic spectacle of Kesey bolting out my patio door, bobbing like a jackrabbit over neighborhood fences, burying the stash in someone's brick barbecue. I could barely speak as I opened the front door, steadying myself by leaning against the wall, shaking, the scent of our mischief still hanging in the air. Besides that grass made you paranoid to begin with, I was sure that I was being punished, busted for my first official stray off the straight and narrow. "I just wanted to check," Sergeant Riley said,"if you found your charge card." Exhale.
Then, while I was waiting for my professor to read the first draft of The Motherland (a really good book,) I dashed off a little comic novel about wife-swapping in the suburbs, once more ahead of her time. The book sold at once. Doubleday, who was to be the publisher, received a letter from Kesey. I still have it. "We are the wife-swappers," it said. "If you publish this book you will have a liable(sic) suit, in fact several liable suits. My wife is seven months pregnate(sic) It will jeepardize(sic) our position in the community, and I am a graduate student in the English department at Stanford University." That, in spite of the spelling, was a crystal truth. Kesey told me once that if it hadn't been for the Honor system, he never would have gotten through graduate school(we had to sign our bluebooks that we hadn't cheated.) Anyway,Doubleday bought the letter and cancelled the book,publishing it reluctantly after I'd bowdlerized it completely, changing the locale from Northern California to Long Island, making the nearby Veteran's hospital(the one that Ken and worked at that was the inspiration for Cuckoo's Nest, where I'd volunteered, too, but didn't partake of the mind-altering drugs,-- missed it again!) into a spa. What was funny in it was lost, but what really pissed him off, I think,was that I opined that the character, for all his apparent sexuality, hadn't been that good in bed. I mean, nothing to write home about, unless it was a novel.
So over the years he continued being mad at me, making me a character in the first printing of Cuckoo ("A Red CrossLady named Gwendolyn... taking notes on the pain and hell around her, plans to write a funny novel about it later on")-- out of the rest of the printings thanks to Obnoxious Mel, a lawyer who was courting me and spoke to Viking. I wanted many times to make it all right with Ken, to heal it, but when I finally saw him in the collapsed flesh, I was too sad at what he had become to go up and speak to him. And then he died.
My question,doctor: If it made him so mad,why did he give a copy to Larry McMurtry? Interesting, yes? Why would you give a book in which you insisted you'd been libeled to another writer you admired. Could it be he was actually pleased I wrote about him? No way to know now. Oh,well.
No review of Brokeback Mountain here. Beautiful picture, beautiful men. But I was strangely unmoved. Maybe I identified too much with the women. See the Tab Hunter biography, re Tony Perkins.
Happy Holidays.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Thanksgiving Plus One

it is the day after Thanksgiving that is always the hardest. I have come to terms with Thanksgiving being difficult and empty, a day of remembering how rich our Thanksgivings were when Don was here, and the children were still lovable and accepting, when even my son who took exception to the quality of my cooking ("Gourmet again! Why can't we have hamburgers like normal people?") took pleasure in my pumpkin soup in a pumpkin shell, Teriyaki Turkey with Chinese stuffing(almonds and crystallized ginger and turkey sausage, celery and beansprouts and water chestnuts, a festival all on its own.) And most unexpectedly and deliciously,Cranuberry Much, a side dish I'd learned when I visited friends in DC and went to cooking classes when Jimmy Carter was Prez. So instead of sweet potatoes there were grits, but I paid no attention to those. Ah, but Cranuberry Much! That was a dish to mollify the angels, espcially those who liked a good crunch.
I remember asking Paul, the doctor who was attending Don, his best friend who had failed to catch the bad cell in an early x-ray,if Don would be with us for Thanksgiving. Paul went a little nuts when he finally x-rayed Don in August and the whole right lung was gone-- he'd been giving him pain pills for his back, and in his crazed denial said"Which Thanksgiving? He'll be here next year and the year after that." But Don left us the 14th of November, so our warm cornacupia, the jewel-colored piled high vegentables and fruits, grapes dripping down the side.,with a brown felt 'Thanks,' that I'd bought at a street fair in Westwood, little embroidered Pilgrims in its center, sat looking at us merrily cartoon-like, as deeply into denial as Paul had been, and we would have been, too, except that we'd felt him dying.
But Susan came for the dinner,our sweet airheady friend we'd made in the course of our exploration of metaphysics,and she said at the table she'd been out in the back yard talking to Don. And because she was so divinely silly, or maybe so sillily divine, we accepted that she'd been out there with Don and that made us feel he was all right, and so we went on eating.
I have non-celebrated many Thanksgivings since-- when I was just on that wonderful cruise I realized that the 21st anniversary of his death took place during one of the impressive panels. But friends have been kind. I have celebrated with Sheila,and with the Boyarskys, and one time with my darling cousin Susie who made her Thanksgiving on the Friday, so because it was Shabbis, she being deeply observant because she thought G_d would save her if she was a good Jew, wouldn't re-ignite the gas as it was after the non-witching hour,so the turkey was little more than raw, but we ate it anyway, because we loved Susie,who died anyway.
Some Thanksgivings I have fasted, as my way of saying thank you, a custom I found out yesterday in an editorial in The Times might have been more to the point, that early pilgrims may have sanctified it as a spiritual observance, and so fasted rather than stuffed. As most of my true compadres are elsewhere, I decided to fast yesterday, and it was easy, really. But there were pieces of my soul that were splintered, because I wish i had a family that was real family, children, grown too big now to be considered children, who were nicer, more productive, less self-absorbed, grand-children I had real access to. None of this is larded with self-pity, as i have to cut down on cholesterol. But it would have been nice to wake up this morning with a sense of accomplishment, which fasting somehow gives you. Instead, though, I woke up with the feeling it was Sunday, and resented the fact that it wasn't. And that the paper wasn;t the Sunday paper, and people weren't easy with the day that it was.
It is bitter cold suddenly,and I wonder how I will make it through winter. I had a joyous day, truly joyous last Tuesday, when Julek blew in for a vsiti from France, and I went to the Gypsy run-though of Chita, the magnificent dancer from West Side Story who still tears a stage up at she says 72, but might be 78. The Gypsy run-through is when they do it for all the dancers in other shows, a special matinee so her peers can come and see. And cheer. My God, I never heard such cheers. The show is beyond exuberant. it is a paean to all the shows that were, when shows were shows and Chita was in them. And it made me weep for what isn't anymore in the way of theater: songs you can sing, music that thrills you, people you can root for. But I guess, in a way, that's the same thing you can feel about Thanksgiving.


Sunday, November 20, 2005

Ship of Smarts

It was my intention to go on The Nation cruise-- The Nation being America's oldest magazine, unfailingly well-written by the intellectual Left, that yearly offers its faithful subscribers a moderately costly voyage up and down some waterway during which journey panels led by its contributors, editors and bureau chiefs discuss the pressing issues of the day, in this particular day more pressing than ever, with stop-offs at various Mexican ports of call-- and afterwards write a wry salute to Katherine Anne Porter's Ship of Fools. At the end of my parodized odyssey, the ship, on returning to port, would be turned away by Cheney and re-directed to Cuba, as in World War II a vessel filled with interesting souls escaping the Nazis was sent back to Europe so those on board could meet their tragic fate.
But I found myself so touched, so opened, simulated and refreshed by all that had transpired, not the least of it connecting with these people, each of them, as a novelist would have it, with a story to tell, fierce opinions, not all of them reasonable, not all of the persons sane. But everyone on board was so deeply concerned, that I decided I could do nothing that might in any way minimize how great it was, how lucky I felt to be on board. My heart was as full as if the Bush administration were no longer in power
But alas, as the phonies in publishing say in the second half of the letter the first half of which has praised your work, we landed. At the San Diego Airport I was faced with the reality. Before me on the newspaper rack was only one publication, The Wall Street Journal, announcing in its lead, tight paragraph that that which we imagined on the cruise was transpiring, Bush's plummeting in the polls forcing congress to turn the stupidity around and start the troops coming home, not what had happened at all, but alas. As those of you who were plugged in know the opposite had occured.
On board ship we had only bright people who lifted our enraged spirits, the Times Digest in the morning, and some real newspapers mysteriously acquired by me in various ports and, even more mysteriously while at sea. I suppose I had fallen into the fantasy of thinking the world would go sane in honor of our cruise, so seeing the real news shocked my eyes, minus the awe. Oh, but it was a lovely dream, albeit a combative one, while it lasted. Great speakers,stimulating panels, like-minded people who want things like peace, health care, help for the destitute, responsible men in office, democracy as the Founders would have had it, Jeffersonian and Madisonian principles, spirited discussions to stimulate the mind. And every morning I swam for an hour just after sunrise, so my body was alive ,too. Sitting in the airport, though, motionless,I could feel the weight begin to settle into my legs and arms after all those days of working them. So I wonder if my brain, too, will experience withdrawal,and fall into a similar lassitude.
The one regret I had as the ship pulled into port was that i had done nothing the entire trip to nourish my soul. All those stars and tranquil seas and I had never meditated on them, taking time only one night to concentrate fully on the moon, rewarding me in kind.
I did, though,make one pilgrimage of a sort-of spiritual nature, getting off the ship at Puerta Vallarta,where we'd been once, Don and I, when Madeleine and Robert were little, I'd gone parasailing and they'd rented horses on the beach. After Don died I went back there to a beautiful hotel-- the name escaped me when I first landed on Wednesday, but I knew the general direction, that there were curves in the road, the sea on the right, ands hills to the left-- where I'd met Marty and Aileen. He was an appellate judge and she was a psychologist, kind, sharp people with a lovely sense of humor and,on his part, a sense of chivalry. Marking my aloneness he invited me to join them,and we'd become good friends. When I'd pulled my memorable coup of taking a group of friends gratis to the Cooking School of Umbria, they were part of the gang. Particularly fortuitous for us in Aileen's case, as we had among us a self-proclaimed Famous Person, whom our resident (and softly sensitive) shrink diagnosed as a Borderline Narcissist. For those of you who don't know what that means as I didn't either till Aileen explained it to me, it's like a tree that gets caught in a very strong wind when it's a sapling, so gets twisted and never grows the way Nature intended, The most you could do with one of those, Aileen said, was keep it out of trouble, or try to. There was no way it would ever get untwisted. We stayed very close till I moved to Paris.
I tried to find them again when I returned to New York, but their numbers in Michigan were disconnected. I found his son, who works for the city and Bloomberg,and he told me they had died, she of cancer, he of Lou Gehrig's disease, both still young. So I went to try and find the spot where I'd met them all those years ago. And looking at the map, I found a beach called Garza Blanca and remembered that had been the name of the hotel. But my taxi driver said the owners had run out of money, and the place had fallen into disrepair. I asked him to go there anyway.
Out of it all at least has come a pome.

Puerta Vallarta-November 16

So this is where my children galloped first across the sands
Exploring what there was of life in new,exotic lands
And here in later years I found a pair of loving friends
But tides swirled in to pound the rocks,and much that's lovely ends.
Once villas rose against these hills, now broken huts decay
And what was treasured in my life has mostly worn away
My husband's gone, my friends have passed, my country is demeaned
The chubby cherub I adored has morphed into a fiend
Ah, but the trees stand velvet green, umbrellaed towards the sea
Lush fuchsia flowers edge the shore, saluting God and me
'Amor por un rato' they are called, 'Love for a little while'
Better than'never was,' says I, as we go out in style.

But melancholic as that day might have been, there were unexpected joys on this trip. Besides the mental excitement, it was a Dutch ship, so the crew was in large part Indonesian. I was able to greet in their language, and felt that I was in my beloved Bali as well as on the sea. I wore my Milene necklace,(everyone admired and many coveted) and some of my Nadya clothes, so it also became a fashion adventure.
Sad as I was to be coming home, as much of a letdown as I felt, when I opened my door, Mimi jumped to greet me. The groomer had put her there, as a surprise. And I remembered that no matter how much love you might have lost in life, there is still some that is unconditional.

Monday, October 24, 2005


So in-between all the cheer-making noise about nerves at the White House, and Republicans now starting to diss the until-now-above-reproach Fitzgerald in advance, just in case, you may have missed the news about Anne Rice. Her next book will be about Jesus, in his voice.
Ms.Rice was a student of my friend Bill Weigand who was in the Creative Writing Program with me at Stanford. He taught her writing at San Francisco State, where he told me she wrote soft porn. But as a result of the flooding of New Orleans, and a spiritual awakening, she has turned to the realms of Ralph Reed, leaving the dark shadows and pulsing arteries behind, with perhaps just a weeny thought of picking up the Christian market. Jesus' voice, I read, will date from when he was seven. So if no one objects, or even if they do, I will speak with the voice of a writer who confuses herself with God.

I would forgive myself
The loneliness
If only I held in hand
A work of Art
For it is the task of the artist
To be lonely
Because if someone were there
To brighten up the time
He might never create.
I wonder if God felt like that.

I am not going to answer Myself right away, as I am only qualified to feel with the sentiments of a very young God, not yet self-realized. So probably my response would be a bit mawkish, as I have always imagined it was lonely work, Creation, and resting among the cold swirl of stars. It is at this point that I must monitor myself(that's my little self, not the Big One) since the government is trying to get universities to change their e-mails so they can be monitored for terrorists, a not-so-subtle hint that we are being watched/and or listened to electronically. You may recall some months ago when i (little Gwen) lost my closest relationship from college, my vacation invitation rescinded, because what I was writing was 'Inflamatory.' I did not correct my friend's spelling, as I knew she was already distressed at my having likened Bush to pond scum, which she said spoke of my not having an education, something we both knew was not so. I look back at it now as maybe having been a protective act on her part, rather than a rejection, as she is a Republican with heavy government connections, so maybe she knows we all better be careful.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

What'sa Blogger to Do?

Some days the news defies satirizing. The past few editions of the papers and announcements on TV seem themselves to be parodies. A woman chosen as candidate for the solidest seat in the land who has never even judged a hog-calling contest,and considers W "the most brilliant man i ever met." Where's she been, in a kennel? While those of us who were dreamers enough to believe an education majoring in English could equip you for survival in the world, reel under mis-used and uninformed language, even high school dropouts wince at the opinion that things are getting "more better."
Bali bombed again. The most peaceful people on the planet are the Balinese, who believe in Instant Karma: that which you send out will boomerang back,so nobody loses their temper, they are so afraid of anger. Of course, occasionally there is that hapless burglar caught in stealing delicto coming out a window, at which point the whole village beats him to death, flees,and the police ask no questions. But aside from that, the most peaceful and loving people on the earth.
Those of you who know me understand I am a Quaker-Buddhist-Jew, something my husband begged me to put on the questionnaire for my Bryn Mawr reunion years ago to drive everybody crazy. But in addition to that, I get the Daily Word, a peaceful, uplifting thought to start the day with. And they passed my name on to the Daily Dig, which e-mails me uplifting thoughts in case I don't have enough, sometimes from Tolstoy, sometimes Dorothy Day, or Reinhold Niebuhr. But today's Daily Dig,coinciding with the right hand column of The New York Times warning of Bird Flu, said that Bush had asked Congress to let him call in the Military in the event of an Avian breakout. I of course thought it was a joke. Someone had hacked their way in and found an even greater absurdity than is the fact. So I e-mailed them back asking if it was a joke. No, they responded, deadly serious. Deadly. Serious.
I'm not sure if the military is supposed to move against the birds or the people who contract the flu, but I wish there was some way to get them to move against Bush. I spoke to my longtime idol Kurt Vonnegut, who says it's too late, that there's nothing we can do. But he is tired, by his own admission, and old, and., I am afraid,ready to pack it in. But what about the rest of us? Is there nothing we can do?
Enjoy every minute of every day. God knows, or maybe George will tell him so he'll know, how much time we have left. Take your clue from Mimi, who drinks in the weather and the water while it's here. Sneeze not lest you be sent to Guantanamo. Father,forgive him: he knows not what he does. But You already know that.

Monday, September 26, 2005

How Smart Was Nero?

So I have returned from the protest march in Washington. It was truly inspiring, in the right sense of the word: breathing in. So much of the past few years has been spent holding our breaths, or breathing fire, it was joyful to just take in how many like-minded spirits there were, almost all of them benign. The carpers and screamers who stood on the sidelines and told us we were going to go to Hell if we didn't accept Jesus were few in number and ineffective, as there was such general good will, and sense of-- Get this: Love of Country. It has been easy to forget, or at least be numbed into a wounded kind of amnesia, what a great country this is, was, and can be again. But there were fourteen busloads in from Wisconsin,and twelve in from Arizona, and people who had flown in on their own from all over the United States of America which it showed signs of becoming.
There were posters being carried by children:"Get rid of Mad Cowboy Disease", "I want my Country Back."and T-shirts(I was wearing mine, bought at the Roe v. Wade march: "Stop Bitching, Start a Revolution," connecting me with two others I spotted wearing the same, so we 'Yo'd' to each other,and a younger one "Hey!"d,revealing several steel balls in her tongue(I'm glad I'm not that young)and Peace banners waving, some drummers, a brass band surrounding Iraq vets in wheelchairs, an Uncle Sam on stilts with a Pinocchio nose, several "Nobody died when Clinton lied"signs, a blow-up of the doctored photo making its way around the Internet, of George the 1st and W grinning as they hauled a big fish out of the floodwaters of New Orleans. And I could not help thinking that as Nero fiddled while Rome burned, that W biked while the Gulf flooded,and I wondered if Nero had a father he emulated. Sometimes I cannnot help wishing I were Gore Vidal, who would have known.
The march was long and routed past the White House("Our House!" people shouted.) I told somebody Bush wasn't home, and she said "He isn't home when he is home." Starbucks (there were several along the way) must have made a fortune( the coffee-house Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired,") and in one of them, when we could wa;lk no further(I'd connected with three wonderful women,Unitarians I met on the Metro, spirited and kind, distressed at how far right Christianity had veered in this country, saying Jesus wouldn't approve of how he was being used) I met up with Joy, a downsized journalist who went back to school and now teaches English as a second language(in Wisconsin! -- who would have known there were Hmongs.)
All in all a wonderful voyage which I invite you all to join in in some sympathetic fashion, finding out when the next march is(check Moveon.Org or UnitedforPeace.org) and think about maybe making Cindy Sheehan our candidate. We don't know how smart she may be, but she certainly is charismatic, something the available Democrats show no sign of being;It is not just enough our being against, we have to have someone we're for. And she did do something, which is more than most of us did before Saturday. And how smart do you have to be to be smarter than W?
I remember when I was in the earthquake in '89 in San Francisco,and a bunch of women were picked up fromHuntington Park where we were huddled on what is the solidest part of Nob Hill, and taken back to a sort-of friend's house,and among those gathered was Ann Richards, who was in town for a fundraiser that, sadly, must not have raised enough or maybe George W.wouldn't have beaten her as Governor, and then we wouldn't be in the pickle we are now. And as we spent that earthquakey night watching the marina explode through a picture window, I asked her what would happen if Dan Quayle were to become president. She said "Then the country will find out what the Founders always knew: that it can run without a president." Well, I guess we've found that out, but the Founders weren't counting on Karl Rove.

Monday, September 19, 2005

You Can't Fool Mother Nature, but you can Piss her Off

The best part about cellphones is that the insane among us can now talk comfortably to themselves without anyone's being the wiser. I spent Sunday morning, a glorious one, resplendent you might actually call it, sitting on a park bench next to the mucked-up pond in Central Park, still eerily viridescent on its surface, reading the paper and listening to a pleasant lunatic railing and commentating a few benches away. I say pleasant because he bore some resemblance to Brando in his later years, not yet the full-blown grotesque, but only moderately bloated, in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts, and a Panama hat. His voice was well- modulated and interesting, more so because my last few outdoor ventures have been marred by people on their fucking mobiles nattering away loudly, at sidewalk cafes, walking on the street,n'importe ou(the French are here, plugged in, too.) So as there is no peace left anywhere, it is comparatively charming to hear someone intelligent who has lost it, and so has an excuse.
"Cole slaw," he noted, as he took out the contents of his lunch bag. "My grandmother made excellent cole slaw. I remember the hurricane when I was ten, it was 1938, November 28th it was. There were three more days till the end of the hurricane season, but it came anyway. The streets of New York were flooded,and she went into shock over it. They put her in a mental ward and she didn't speak for five years. I wonder why they never talk about that hurricane. on the news She was sixty six, the same age I am now." I didn't try to correct him on his math, because the conversation he was conducting with himself was quite amicable, and infinitely more interesting than the ones you tune into without wanting to, just because you are seated near some klunkhead who is planning a party and talking loudly to a Maitre d', or at least insisting she is well known to the Maitre d', so the message should be passed along, "a table for fifteen."
"Funny," the man on the bench was saying "how you remember things from so long ago but you can't remember what happened yesterday. That's probably good for this administration."
Well said. It put me in mind of 'The Snake Pit' where Olivia de Havilland speaks of the lunatics being allowed to run the asylum. It would be nice to think that the catastrophic events of these past weeks would have some effect for the good. Frank Rich in his brilliant op-ed piece Sunday wrote that once the curtain was pulled aside the Wizard of Oz could never seem to be a wizard again, revealed once and for all as a blustering snake-oil salesman, as the true Bush has been revealed, never to be believed at the level he was by the American people. Oh, God,I hope not. The idiocy has been so blatant, the media so far ahead in its reporting that even Fox News has had to acknowledge the embarrassment. I got an e-mail today from a friend in Malaysia who sent me the Roe v. Wade joke/query, 'What does Bush think of Roe v.Wade? Answer: He doesn't care HOW the people get out of New Orleans.' From Kuala Lumpur, for God's sake. The rest of the world catches on while here there is joy among bright people that his approval rating is down to 46%. How can 46% still approve of him?
You can fool 46% of the people some of the time,and a lot of the people at a time when it really mattered, but you can't fool Mother Nature. I felt sure she had expressed her feelings as a response to the spit in her face about Global Warming, her fury at the blatant ignorance, after all she had done to give us a clue. Ignorance is no longer bliss, it's policy. I remember when I was making my first foray into the realms of spiritual questing, I asked Jack if there was evil in the world. (I had asked the same question of Richard Kleindienst, one of Nixon's fallen Attorney Generals, my dinner party partner in Georgetown,and he said "You better believe it." Still I was in the first throes of attempted deep discovery, so I welcomed Jack's answer: "No. There is ignorance and greed." I'll say. I wasn'tsure where to send my donation for New Otleans,and wondered if it wasn't best to send it directly to Halliburton.
So now Hurricane Rita(that'smy Aunt), or maybe it will be downgraded to a Tropical Storm, is almost upon us. Everyone is preparing this time. Bush says the levees might give if the storm hit New Orleans. It's nice that he understands that by now. After Katrina he said 'Who knew that the levees would give?' Well,only everybody who paid any attention for the past few years,or listened at all, ever. Live in the moment, George. Who ever thought that someone who never watches TV could be stupider than someone who did?
After he departed, the man who was talking to himself, I saw that he had left a wax paper-wrapped sandwich: he had forgotten to eat his lunch. It was a bologna on white with American cheese, and I wondered if that was symbolic of what we had become. I fed it to the mallards.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Love's Uneaten Bread

My Jewru Jack, in one of his talks, quotes some mystic or spiritual maven, who says "The trouble is, we think that we have Time." Patience has always been my short suit, and as I was early in the creative game, I was in a great hurry to have my musical open on Broadway, my great novel published and recognized, my movie made, my song sung, my poem published in The New Yorker, whatever. When I was little more than twenty, I met Stanley Kubrick, and because of his obvious dark brilliance and the desperate shadows in his eyes, he became my closest friend.

Billy Wilder was already referring to him, somewhat ironically, as “twenty-nine-year-old” Stanley Kubrick, so the appellation of boy genius was in the air. He had not yet become famous, though anyone who’d seen his 1958 film, The Killing, was dazzled by his work. He was at the party where I met him in Hollywood with his wife, Christiane, who was wearing a white dress, slightly glamorized with beads and crystal, and a splendidly distended belly. I told him she was the most beautiful pregnant woman I had ever seen, and he said “What did you expect?” as though we were very old friends, and I should have known he would come up with nothing less.

We became friends, very quickly. I was part of a small band who often ate dinner at their house, where Christiane cooked wonderful meals, and the conversation was heady and intense. I was on my way to Stanford for a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing. Others at the table were John Gavin, who was later to become our ambassador to Mexico, and had just finished acting (rather stiffly) in ‘Spartacus,’ which Stanley was editing at the time, John’s wife Cecily, Jimmy Hill, partner with Stanley on his early films, and various people who were technically innovative. It was Stanley’s intention to change the way movies were made, along with becoming rich and beating taxes.

He had met Christiane while making ‘Paths of Glory.’ She played the singer, the quietly disconsolate young woman so moving in the cabaret scene. In life Christiane was the daughter of a former German army officer, very high in the ranks of Hitler’s elite, and Stanley was a Jew. For their first date, while making ‘Glory’ in Germany, he made her take him on a tour of Dachau. That should have told me everything I needed to know about him.

But I was truly an innocent, infatuated with all that was the movie industry, captivated by talent and beauty, bulldozed by brilliance and bright eccentricity. He and Christiane came to visit me in Northern California where I was at school. I took them on a tour of San Francisco, and the boat that went around Alcatraz. I figured that in spite of the sunlit day and the dazzle on the water, the nature of the excursion would make it dark enough for him. He was sneak-previewing ‘Spartacus’ at a theater in Oakland, where he let me go over the audience reaction sheets with him. ‘Get rid of the dwarf,’ a number of them said. ‘Cut the dwarf.’

“People are very threatened by dwarfs,” he told me, “because they have enormous genitals.” I didn’t ask if that were true. I assumed if he said so, it was.

I was by then in the midst of my second novel, which I was dedicating to him and Christiane, so they were reading it as I went along. “You’re the best writer of dialogue in America,” he said to me on that ride around the bay, flattery so inflating I was almost parasailing. “I’m in big trouble,” he went on after a moment. “I just bought ‘Lolita,’ and Dwight McDonald (movie reviewer at Esquire at the time) is going to give me a good review because Nabokov is a literary genius. But he can’t write a line of dialogue. Would you do me an enormous favor?”

So I played hooky from Stanford, and went down to L.A. Ensconced in the Park Sunset, a semi-seedy hotel in West Hollywood, I proceeded to go to work on the screenplay of ‘Lolita.’ I was not to let anyone know I was in town, or contact my friends, as Stanley was sure if they knew I was there, they would know what I was doing. The paranoia that was to characterize many of his films did not come out of nowhere.

Every day I wrote reams of pages, every night I delivered them to him, rewarded like an eager puppy with a fine meal from Christiane. I did not ask what else was in it for me at the time. I loved them both, considered it a privilege just to be in their company. I understood I was involved in the Hollywood version of espionage. But he assured me I would write his next picture in the open, where he could give me credit.

Then a day came when he asked for a scene where Lolita makes a face when Humbert speaks of another eleven-year-old. Humbert had been supposed to be employed by her family, but it hadn’t panned out. “Oh, you’re so lucky you didn’t have to work with her,” Lolita says. “She’s a creep. She had polio.”

“Stanley,” I argued. “You can’t have Lolita putting down another little girl for having polio. The audience will hate her.”

“No, don’t you get it?” he said, grinning. “Humbert is thinking he’s never fucked a kid with polio before.”

Dismayed, I asked him “How do you see this movie?”

“It’s a love story,” he said.

Huh? I’d thought it was a comedy. As little as I knew about sex—I was young and inexperienced, and, I confess, a bit prudish—I knew enough, or thought I did, not to take pleasure from what was clearly perversion. Stanley’s finding delight in a man’s humping a crippled child was repellent to me. I quit.

He gave me $1600 to cover expenses, and I slunk back to Stanford. He stopped speaking to me after that for a few years.

Then the time came when I was about to be married, and I heard Stanley was in New York. I told Don,my about-to-be husband, “I’d really like Stanley Kubrick to be at our wedding.”

Don said, “How do you expect to find him?”

“We’ll go to the first showing of ‘Dr. Strangelove,’ and he’ll be there counting the house.

“Stop being a writer,” Don said.

But we went to the four o’clock screening. As we came down from the loge, I heard ‘Click, click, click, click, click.’ And standing at the rear of the orchestra, with a busman’s counter, was Stanley.

“We just broke the house record for the Criterion,” he said.

So he came to the wedding. At the time Don was producing the first of the Jets games for WOR-TV. Stanley cornered him, and held him hostage with his heavy-lidded charisma for most of the reception, telling him how to shoot the game. “Keep the camera on the line,” he instructed him. “Don’t follow the ball. Hold the camera on the line. That’s the most interesting part of football.”

And Don said “Stanley, if you’ll let me run a credit at the end of the game, ‘Directed by Stanley Kubrick,’ I’ll put the camera anywhere you want me to.”

After that, I saw the Kubricks rarely. They moved to England, where they went by boat—Stanley wouldn’t fly. They came back for ‘2001, A Space Odyssey.’ Christiane called me and said the critical reaction was half idolization, half cries for crucifixion.

At one point I visited them in England, in the compound he was building for himself in Boreham Wood. He sat in his screening room with Christiane, her brother Jan Haarlan, with whom he worked, and me, studying the films of Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler’s propagandist, in preparation for making ‘A Clockwork Orange.’ That we were there in one room, Stanley, the Bronx Jew, with his beautiful wife, the daughter of a high-level Nazi, and her brother, against the grainy black and white specter of Riefenstahl’s brilliance on the screen, was beyond a fiction writer’s gift of invention. I remember particularly a shot of the ankle of a Hitler Jungen, straining so hard to see his Fuhrer, that you could see the calf muscles bulging, as he stood on tiptoe, edging out of his sock. “What a genius she was!” Stanley exclaimed. “You never even had to see Hitler to get how powerful he was.”

After that, I saw them hardly at all. He withdrew further and further into the private realm he’d created for himself, closing the world out, and his filmmaking in. Cutting himself off from the society that posed such a threat to him, much as it seemed to revere him, he appeared to have lost his sense of what the world really was, and with it, his timing. Feasting his bulging onyx eyes on what he saw as the center of the universe,-- the picture in each frame-- he didn’t notice how sloooowly they passed, how static and unmoving his movies became.

I remember best the last time I saw him, or almost saw him. My family and I went to Thanksgiving dinner at the home of American friends who lived next door to him at Elstree. My children were four and two, beautiful and bright, and I wanted so much for him to see them, to see how full my life had become, even absent his formidable presence. So I took them next door.

I knocked on the great wooden door, thick and heavy as Mel Brooks' Frankenstein take-off. Characteristically, it moaned and creaked, as slowly it opened. Two great, snarling Dobermans on the end of a chain growled and barked from inside the entryway, leapt into the darkness, snapping at the air.

“Stanley?” I said into the darkness. “Stanley?”

He recognized my voice. “Gwen?” he said.


“I’d let you in,” he said. “But the dogs will go for the children.”

He wrote me a letter of apology for his behavior some weeks later, a long, squiggly, handwritten thing, the script cramped and running up the page and sides and over the top. The handwriting seemed evidence of what had happened to him as much as his having the dogs. It upset me too much for me to have the sense to keep it, and sell it at Christie’s.

The last thing I saw of his, the last movie he was to make, was‘Eyes Wide Shut.’ I couldn’t believe how arduous it was, how boring. As saddened as I was by what had happened to the early indisputable filmic genius of Stanley, I was astounded at the non-flow of the words, by Frederic Raphael, whom I’d long considered the best screenwriter in the world.

The following winter, back in New York, I saw Elliott Kastner, once on top of the producer pile, a man who had made over seventy pictures. I asked him how Raphael could have written such lifeless, awful dialogue. “I’ll send you his book,” Elliott said. “’Eyes Wide Open.’ That’ll explain it.”

“Nothing can explain how bloated it was,” I said. “How turgid and overblown. It was like nobody knew what to do.”

“Stanley did,” said Elliott. “Stanley knew what to do. He died.”

Sad as that loss seemed, and was,today for me is even sadder. There's an editorial in The New York Times about this being the fiftieth anniversary of Lolita's being published,so without even having to drown, my life is passing in front of my eyes. I have never had the sensation of time passing. My energy was always fresh, and renewed. Even the loss of my husband at a very young age, his and mine, was bounceable-back from, because I went back to Bryn Mawr to write a play, so thought, once again, when it was finished, that I was just out of school.
But to add insult to obituary, I went today with a friend to a seminar of the American Theater Wing about musicals. Present on the panel were the writers of the coming musicals Dr. Zhivago and The Color Purple. Line me up and shoot me with bad ideas. And if that's not enough, the writer of Purple was a woman who looked like Bruce Valanch, only not as pretty. She had never known a Broadway musical before getting involved in this project, whereas I, as close friends know, have loved and aspired to the musical theater since I was a little girl, which I now realize, finally, was a reallllllllllllllllllly long time ago. My musical comedy has been ready and optioned and passed by for more years than there are UN officials in town. And, to make it worse, I have recently read The Motherland, my novel that came out at the same moment Richard Nixon fell, and all anyone wanted to read was All the President's Men. Lost lost. The time is out of synch. I was born too late, and bright too early.
The best sentence in Wuthering Heights, lamenting about Cathy and Heathcliffe's failure to get together is "Love's Uneaten Bread." What about Song's Unheard Melody? Word's Unread Insight?
Oh,God, I wish I had the energy to start all over. The trouble is, we think that we have time.

Friday, September 09, 2005


It is hard to know what charity to donate to in the wake of this tragedy, so horribly compounded by the fiasco of what our government failed to do. An accountant friend recommended something called the Presidential fund, but as there has been nothing presidential about anything this president has done, I passed on that one. The Red Cross sometimes has a questionmark around its bureaucratic costs, so in the end I thought of choosing some Jewish fund, well-researched to make sure all the money was going to victims, but as they are concerned with helping mostly the Jews of New Orleans, and I want to help everyone, including the pets, I decided to go with the Quakers, the American Friends Service Committee, which is always above reproach and doesn't spend money on itself. My main thought, though, is that we should have a separate humanitarian drive for Barbara Bush, who said, in essence, that so many of the people in New Orleans had no quality of life to begin with, they were better off being forced to move. At least I hope that's what she meant. It is my hope she didn't think they were better off dead. Perhaps we could arrange a sensitivity transplant. Not since Marie Antoinette. So now we can all be assured that not only does blood run thicker than water, the Bush skin runs thicker than anyone's.
I am, strangely, both reassured and helped by the presence of Mimi. Mimi, as you know, is a Bichon Frise, the same dog as Marie Antoinette;s. As a result of her admiration for her dog, Marie dressed her wig in the same style as her Bichons'. After her guillotining, the French didn't like to be reminded of her, and so hated the Bichons, and, lore has it ,started offing the dogs. The Italians rescued them, and made them their own, enhancing their innate gifts, teaching them to dance, as they did, quite easily, on their back legs. Once the French discovered the dogs were gifted, they of course took them back.
But let us now to George Bush. How long, oh my father, will it be before people wake up?
As I have lost and in a later, wiser moment, taken from my mailing list all Republicans, as they were incensed at my view of Bush and language I used with respect or disrespect to him they considered 'inflammatory,' I suppose I should of my own volition turn eye and mind to those things in this world that are still of wonder. It is good to be in New York, especially after the joyful realization that my Inner hippie she am dead and gone, which epiphany occured in Big Sur. There were glorious days here over Labor Day weekend, weather being something we had best be grateful for, it seems, when it is fine. Today I walked with Mimi around the Central Park lake which appears to be clearing of its neon green muck, the Duckweed that they had posted signs insisting was good for the habitat, so you can see the water again. I am hoping that is a metaphor for the consciousness of this country. Oops. There I go again.
Using the window of A La Vielle Russie, one of the highest priced antique shops in the city, on Fifth Avenue, as a mirror, a homeless man dry-shaved himself. Homeless does not necessarily mean tasteless, so I hope he noted the Faberge,
My best friend from the third grade,Joanne Greenberg, who wrote I Never Promised you a Rose Garden, was here over the holiday being exceptionally sane as she has more right than most people to be, having recovered from schizophrenia. We saw 'Doubt,' which is really a play, in a season and setting that has offered very few you can feel that about, in fact none if you don't count the magnificent performance of Marian Seldes in 'Dedication' which would hardly be theater if it weren't for her. But Doubt is worth seeing, as is also the way Joanne looks at things. She made me go see 'Grizzly Man,' because of its message, meant directly for me according to her thinking: How over-passion can obscure a long, calm appraisal of things. The documentary about Terry Treadwell, who lived with the grizzlies, considering them his friends, and thinking he was protecting them and was ultimately eaten, along with his poor girlfriend, is genuinely fascinating and curiously un-horrible. It was clear to me that he was crazy, but there was a beleagured sweetness in his conviction. Penguins, though, remain my favorite group of the summer, so touching in their march and steadfast loyalty to their purpose they restored my faith in humanity.
Restoring my faith in movies is 'The Constant Gardener', which I urge you all to rush and see. Now if only someone would restore my faith in this government.

Monday, August 29, 2005


It is interesting why we get to the places we do. For someone self-involved, as I am, and most writers, I think, have to be, observations coming from feelings and feelings being our own, so we focus on them, I obviously imagine I am doing something to please/soothe/heal myself. But once in a while, whether or not you intend to, you are in a place for someone else. Maybe several someones.
As noted in the last Report, I started this journey to celebrate Jack Kornfield, a very high spirit temporarily on the planet, lucky for me, and many who have read his works or sat on his retreats and have benefited from his teachings, and his very calm presence. My trip direction then unexpectedly changed,politics not just making strange bedfellows, but often moving us out of bed and into other rooms or even other spheres, planets, countries: there might be no place far enough away in some instances. So it was that I found myself travelling South, to visit moist surroundings, having been disinvited from the desert because of these ramblings, which my would have been host found offensive. Today's BAD Reporter, my new comic discovery in the Bay Area, has a quote from Pat Robertsoin saying he was misinterpreted, that he just wanted Chavez to be 'More Holy' and then goes on to discuss what the Bad Reporter has christened 'Gangsta Evangelism.' "On the rise?" it asks. "With white gangsta Christianity growing, worried parents focus on its glamorization of violence, while ignoring its good points: Misogynist, Homophobic, Violent... But Moral."
At the River Inn, a very simple motel by a complex river, I met a single mom from LA who said she wants to own her own time, a luxury I never considered I had, but do now and have for some time, and so have resolved to stop letting myself be pulled and buffeted about by the winds of ambition. She was with her son, Jaron, who's six, and told me she doesn't date for herself but for him, so I returned the favor she had done me by suggesting she should date for herself and the right man will be fine for Jaron, too. Little children played with the pebbles in the shallow edge of the river, and Mimi lifted their spirits even higher than little children's spirits are to begin with. An 18 month old Australian girl named Ivy clapped with every victory as she learned words I taught her: toe, nose, and eyes.
But the main thing I was doing here besides comforting myself with the forgiving side of Nature-- deserts to me have always seemed unforgiving-- was visiting my friend Sofanya. Sofanya and I met by mystically bizarre circumstance which some would call coincidence, but it seemed far beyond that. I bought a pair of earrings, very free-spirited and colorful, turquoise with purple stones, when I was visiting my daughter in Arizona very early in her college time there. I never wore them, but put them in a treasure chest I kept in my bedroom in San Francisco, on a mirrored tray, so they reflected all that interesting light. Then one day about two years later I put them on, and walked down Union Street, where there are slews of charming little shops, the whole area having been designed by a prize-winning architect, whose prize one time was letting her design Union Street. From one of those boutiques came a gorgeous fragrance, not too heavy, but alluring, so as in a cartoon I was pulled into the shop by the scent. "Oh," said the proprietor. "You're wearing Carol White earrings." That night I went to an art opening in the Mission district, pretending to look at the paintings which were not very good, but actually looking for love which never came again, its least likely breeding ground, for a single heterosexual woman at least, San Francisco. It was a foggy night, and as I left, walking down the ramp, I passed under the one street lamp that illumined the darkness. From the other direction up the ramp came a youngish woman, who passed under the light at the same moment I did, and she said, "Oh, you're wearing my earrings. I'm Carol White." I had never heard the name before that day, never having worn the earrings before. I told her the whole story, with all its improbabilities; we decided we were meant to be friends. And so we are. Some time after that she met the mad San Francisco chara cter Gypsy Boots, and he renamed her Sofanya, which she has been ever since. She paints and sculpts and does all manner of artful things, with a little shop/studio here at Big Sur. But mainly what she does is have a big heart. Her two sons are grown, and her most recent love, Wes, a massage-therapist at Esalen(standard career here and setting) died suddenly just before I called to tell her I was coming to visit. She is grieving of course-- he drank a lot of beers one night and then had some methadone, and so ended at 31. I've done my best to help, since I have some experience with grief. But meanwhile a big hunky guy showed up and she thought Wes sent him, so she rented him the trailer behind her house, a funky dome-shaped thing in the middle of the Redwoods, surrounded by smaller places she rents to healers and psychics and all breeds of benign weirdos who populate this area. But having come from being with Jack, I am heavily into listening, and this man, 41, divorced, could not resist how hard I was listening, and so told me, and Sofanya, some details of his story that he'd left out in the beginning. Family therapist, counselor, not sure what he wanted to do with his future, maybe go back to school and get his PhD in psychology. And then and then... he said he wasn't able to be certified right now as a family counselor on account of a girl who'd accused him of assault. She is 16 now but at the time she said he assaulted her she was 11 and he was dating her mother. Huh? So are we talking sexual molestation, I asked as gently as i could, and he admitted, well, yeah. The charges have supposedly been dropped but it's still on his record. The neighbors are having a group meeting with him this weekend, all those who live around Sofanya's house, as some of them have little girls. Sofanya is sure he is innocent, but the other neighbors said, even without knowing this, that there was something about him that creeped them out. It would have been nice to pass through here just sprinkling Fairy Dust, but maybe this was more important to do. It feelst like Law and Order SVU.
Such a strange but good trip. The celebration at Spirit Rock beginning it-- a really nice woman, fiftyish, got me a chair, and introduced me to her wife. The wife was the one in the tuxedo. Where is Lewis Carroll when we really need him?
Tonight I am going to be re-birthed by Anita, a local psychic who works at Nepenthe, the place Henry Miller hung out when I was here in my 20s, sitting next to him at a stool in the bar while a young woman sucked his toes. I didn't intend to be re-birthed, but I bought a gift for Jamie from Anita and I heard she was a healer. "What is it you want?" Anita asked me. "To grow up," I said. "Why would you want to?" she asked.
Because I am growing older. You can't be young forever. In fact, you can't be young except when you are young. It is the first time I have faced that directly, and started to come to terms with the realization. They have everything here of a Fix-it nature-- the area is rife with massage therapists and spa treatments of every conceivable design, from cheap to those at Ventana and the Post Ranch Inn where the rooms are $1250 a night. But the one thing you can't get here is a manicure. For that, you need to go back to Carmel.
A pome:


Not a sad understanding, though, really. Another Pome:

So we're going to go back to those moments and fill them wih light. which is unconditional love. Hey, why not. Look where I am.

AFTERTHOUGHT, when safe at Home: Well, my re-birthing was full of shit, and, not incidentally, so is Big Sur. You remember that saying,"we have met the enemy and it is us?" Well, I have met my Inner Hippie, and she is Theirs. I have left her behind me with an enormous amount of grime and clothes I never want to wear again.
The woman who re-birthed me was kind and had sparkles on her face, but I forgot I know all about this masturbatory stuff having written a novel about it(TOUCHING) which almost landed me in the slammer. So the New Age is the Old Age and it is OVER OVER OVER, and if they can't let it go where they are, I can now where I am. I came back singing "I'll Take Manhattan."
P.S. On the way back I stopped in Pacific Grove and had a manicure. Cleanliness is not only next to Godliness, it feels SOoooooooo good.

Sean Penn in Iran and Gwen in Big Sur

Having been dis-invited by the Republicans in the desert, who found my Reports 'inflamatory', spelled with one 'm' but I did not correct them, I decided to go to moist country(Big Sur) to re-connect with my Inner Hippie. That part of the adventure was launched at the 60th birthday celebration for the writer/teacher/spiritual maven Jack Kornfield, whom some of you have encountered in these posting over the years as my 'Jewru,' Don's name for him, and quite accurate as well as witty, which Don usually was. There were three hundred people at Spirit Rock, the meditation retreat Jack helped to found, this time its redwooded simplicity bedecked with colorful banners to enliven the occasion, where Joan Baez in an orange turban sang (and danced quite well in her downtime) along with many happy young people who had all the moves and were friends of Jack's daughter Caroline, celebrating her 21st birthday. All personally signififcant to me because Caroline was newly born when Don was newly dying, and everything I was going through as Don was leaving, Jack was experiencing with Caroline's coming in,, so for some sadly uplifted moments then I saw where the two processes were close, and quite alike,so made me believe that life and death were, indeed, part of the the same. That faith of course has been shaken mightily from time to time but right then it helped keep me sane, at least as sane as I was.
Also present was Daniel Ellsberg, the hero who brought us the Pentagon Papers, at risk to his own safety and sanity which the NIxon crowd tried to dis-establish by breaking into his psychiatrist's office in hopes of finding something they could blackmail him with. We have some common ground there. First Amendment-wise,so there was much exchanging of information about our freedoms, and he gave me websites to check about what is going down now, and also some chilling if accurate information about reporters signing up as CIA confidential keepers which adds more shadows to the whole Judith Miller thing-- that woman as heroine having faded further and further into the shadows where lurks Robert Novak. Anyway it was both spiritual and political and would have been a whole lot less hazy if we could have been drunk but all that was served was flavored Crystal Geyser. Joan Baez was leaving the next day for Crawford, Texas,where we all hope Cindy Sheehan's stand is as valid as it seemed, in spite of disturbing quotes attributed to her saying her son had been murdered fighting for Israel. Some self-proclaimed Lefties at the party, probably from Berkeley, said they had friends who agreed with that, so I didn't listen to them since they had gray teeth.
Now I began my journey down route 1, towards Pacific Grove, and an old friend from college who doesn';t do contraversy, so it all stayed quite pleasant. Pacific Grove is on the Monterey Peninsula, my kind of tip, as on the corner stood three anti-war protestors, one of them in his hundreds most likely, with a hat that said 'Veterans for Peace,' holding a sign that read 'Same old shit-- different asshole.' I had a very pleasant dinner with an upperclassman(woman) who had been fragilely beautous in her youth, but had sounded quite aged when I spoke to her on the phone, and had a hard time directing me to her house so I was afraid she had Altzheimer's. Her thinking has, admittedly, grown slow as far as understanding what streets went where, but her spirit was still lovely as were her eyes, and as she told me how her husband, a painter, had stolen her from her first husband, another painter who was going blind, and how they (she and the next husband) had had a menage a quatre with a model and her husband, I could see how good stories lurked even when you got past the beautous point of acting them out in the present as played by Kate Winslet. Then I spent the night in a thin-walled Victorian house where I had to keep Mimi from barking as she had already been busted in one place that didn't accept dogs, and by morning she was quite riled with me, till we walked down to the glorious cove that is at the end of that street, by the Aquarium, and she ran in the sand like the madwoman she probably is at some level, circle circle circle, and it was all quite spunky and joyous. Then a big truck came and emptied out the porta-potties that side that part of the beach, and the full horror of it struck me: there are actually men whose job it is to empty those things. We must none of us complain again ever about what it is we have to do in this struggle to maintain.
On my way there I had swooped down to Half Moon Bay where I used to go on sad Sunday mornings after Don died when I still hoped to find another love. There was a brunch place once where they played jazz and I used to have Eggs Benedict with Happy, my Yorkie, and hope in my pocket, but it's gone now,(the place, Happy is, too, and most of the time hope is) or if(the place) is still there I couldn't find it. So on to Big Sur, where I had several times been happy(not the dog, the feeling), the best of them with Jamie, where we'd sat by the river of the River Inn and let the water cool the rocks and our eyes. I stayed there this time till they found out I had Mimi with me and they'd been overbooked anyway, and were cheats in the bargain, trying to charge me thrice, as Tommy Thompson would have writ, being a bit lofty. But the best part of that stay was my first day with The New York Times and the San Francisco chronicle on the same table at breakfast. We will 'FINISH THE TASK' said the headline in the Times, quoting George Bush's new rewrite of 'Stay the Course.' "Gay Couples to keep Parental Rights,' said the Chronicle. Ah, yes, we are two coasts indeed.
Meanwhile, Sean Penn has written a five day series on being in Iran for the Chronicle, and to my surprise, it's pretty good. I figure I should do the same on being in Big Sur, but of course I can't connect here easily so the information will have to come in piecemeal. I would like to say peacemeal, but what are we going to do? The Chronicle has a cartoonist/humorist , Don Asmussen, with a strip called BAD Reporter, "the Lies Behind the Truth, and the TRUTH behind those LIES that are behind that TRUTH." The first square-- whatever they call these things in cartoons, I wish I could get Jules Feiffer on the phone to give me the word--, says 'BUSH'S 'WAR ON BRUSH' HAS MADE TEXAS A DESTINATION FOR WORLD'S ANGRY SHRUBBERY. Below it, 'For every bit of Brush Bush Clears, Twice as Much Replaces it' says Frightened Local. Then: V.P> Dick Cheney warns: 'Leaving now would make the brush think America is weak.'
Really funny. The last cut: Is Bush's vacation winnable? going on to say where all presidents have been vacationing(Truman, etc.) when wars ended.
I am glad I am here. The desert is no place for a Quaker/Buddhist/Jew, as God tried to show us-- at least a third of us-- the first time.
Ellsberg's suggested website: www.antiwar.com. Particularly Chris Deliso's interview with Sibel Edmonds. He also said to check the current Vanity Fair piece on Sibel Edmonds by David Rose. All shame to us who read no further than how Jennifer Aniston is feeling and coping.
Being in a motel in Big Sur with nothing but my own thoughts, some pomes I'm writing and the silence of Jack as an option, I Elmer Gantryed and turned to the Bible, and wondered how it is that our Prez, as conversant and committed to the Good Book as he claims to be, doesn't take heed to some of the Proverbs, like 'Pride goeth before destruction and an haughty spirit before a fall.', and 'The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water:therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with.' And then they wrote 'He loveth transgression that loveth strife: and he that exalteth his gate seeketh destruction.' Whoops.
Let us pray. Or let us be irreverent, which the Good Lord must have intended or He would have made us all Texans.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Peter Jennings

Peter Jennings has died. I reminded myself almost daily to write him a lettter, telling him how much I thought about him, and that I was pulling for him, but I never did it. I would pass the handsome poster of him near ABC and tell myself again that I had to write, before it was too late. But I guess I always knew it was too late from the moment he was diagnosed and they announced he was going for chemo so the opportunity for surgery had passed. My friend Chuck told me in 1984 whenDon was stricken that his father had been a lung surgeon, and that what fixed it in the 20 and 30s was all that could fix it to this day, or at least that one. That Peter was given radiation is the sign of that same panic that overtakes doctors when they know there is nothing they can do, but won't say so.

I met Peter for the first time at the Apollo-Soyez shot at Cape Kennedy in the 70s, it must have been, when I was deeply involved with a mystic I had introduced to an astronaut who had a spiritual experience while standing on the moon, and they had fallen in love, both of them married to other people. Peter was full out darling, the bright look that was always on his face enhanced by something like happy surprise when we literally bumped into each other on the way to some private celebration. I remember I was wearing a light green dress, cut sort of low, and had a tan as we still did in those days, not fearing anything except never living fully, or loving and being loved enough. I suppose I had giant jugs, and the bump into was accompanied by some exclamation on his part like 'Whoa, Big Mama," or something like that. I was there with Don and my still lovable children-- we were taking them to Disneyworld after the event-- so though I thought him among the most attractive men I had ever met in my life, the full potential lust of it didn't register. But some years later, Kandy Stroud, a journalist in DC with whom I had become friends, told me that Peter had told her he would not rest until we'd had an affair. It did a lot for my romantic ego. Some years after that, Don died from lung cancer, and among the calls I made was one to Peter telling him he had to stop smoking, volunteering to help him from the distance I was. I called him when there were 'Stop Smoking' days, but he always brushed aside my help, as as we know from Bill and Jeanie from Synanon, people can give up heroin but not nicotine.
Then, some years after that I was walking on 62nd Street and bumped into the ever-lively and troublemaking Joan Rivers, who said she'd just come from a book party across the street, and I should crash, they'd be glad to have me there. So I did, and Adolph Green waltzed me around the room at my entrance, so I was glad to have gone, and then I saw Peter. He was in the midst of one of his divorces, so from my usual reticent and shy place, I told him what Kandy had told me he'd said. But apparently he'd gotten a lot of rest since then, as his immediate response was 'How is Kandy?'
I am so sorry he is gone, especially the way he went. I remember Don's last days, when the oncologist said "It's hard to lose a patient like Don." I'm sure it was hard to lose a patient like Peter. I said to the doctor, about the cancer, a word that sticks in the soul and dries the tongue, "they ought to find a new name for this fucker." And he said "Fucker is good."
The real enemy is still that Fucker, so friends shouldn't get mad at each other about anything that comes from the mind. Heal all wounds, Close all breeches. Write the letter. I wish I still believed in everything I believed in when Apollo-Soyez happened, so death would seem to me just a part of the journey. If it isn't, and he can't know how sorry I am that he is gone-- well, maybe there is still the hope that they have Internet in the sky.

Sunday, August 07, 2005


The lake in Central Park, Mimi's front yard, is covered with a thick coat of light neon green, what Jamie once categorized as "pond scum," though at the time she was referring to the men I dated after Don died. I have decided that this president is pond scum, which is really unfair to pond scum, since it sticks only to the surface of the water and not stubbornly to its own agenda. By now the whole world knows Bush has given them the finger, in the person of John Bolton, at the same time giving the finger to all of us who love this country, but still believe there are others that deserve respect. The New York Times Op ed has takent he high ground, saying we are better off with him out of the White House where he could do more damage.
My friend Jordan says we are foolish to worry about our careers when there's going to be a nuclear war. I don't really believe that, but I do feel a sense of terror that this putz is allowed to torpedo this wonderful country. Then, because the Lord works in mysterious ways, it was revealed that his squeaky clean Supreme Court nominee actually did pro bono work on behalf of Gays. So the whole Republican right wing, which seems to me more a back and thigh, is up in arms and legs about the nomination. They are being reassured even at this moment that Roberts is just as inflexible and bigoted as they are, and will doubtless be compensated by having 'Intelligent Design,' the fundamentalist argument to Darwin, put into the school system or the schools won't get any money. What a world what a world; who would have thought that a dumb little boy like him could bring an end to all the beautiful wickedness, by which I here mean rational discussion, anathema to someone who refuses to listen.
Meanwhile on another front, the Hollywood one, Hal Dresner, my wittiest writer friend-- no arguments, you should hear some of the things he's said without thinking-- read the last blog and responded to the George Hamilton reference by imparting to me the intelligence that when he was working on 'Zorro, the Gay Blade,' he referred to George as Dorian Brown. Then he added that when told that, George smiled as though he understood.
Today's NY Times reported that in 1992 Karl Rove leaked to Novak damaging information about Robert Mosbacher that got Rove fired. The article goes on to tell that Novak walked out of a CNN broadcast, after uttering an obscenity."Bullshit," it was, which they did not report.They also do not report that Novak peed on himself before walking out, which Jon Stewart showed the tape of three times on the Daily Show, saying that was one leak that would surely have consequences. He said, like the mischievous boy he is beneath all his political insightd, "Let's see that again."
So is there hope? Will there be justice? . Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Just When You Thought it was Safe to go back into the Pool

I had a flurry of regret during my trip to LA that I did not have the option of living there.. I saw several friends I love and admire, some of them twice, three actresses I Ditto--love and admire--, whose bright sensibilities match their talents, Jamie, Gena Rowlands and Tyne Daly, had a chance to discuss smart politics with my friends the Boyarskys(he was City Editor for the LA Times), and dabbled in a dazzle of Bull... the word the New York Times won't print, even when it's the title of a bestseller. There was a party in the very building where I was staying, to which I was invited, in honor of Ivana Trump, who is the International Incarnation of that unprintable word. Ivana is opening a resort in Australia, the land that will brook no bs, so it is my prediction that the place will, with all speed, imitate the action of the sinkhole that appeared in Laurel Canyon during my stay.
I introduced myself to Ivana, prefacting my hello with "I've been waiting to say this to someone all my life: I met you in St. Moritz." She responded with the blankest stare I have ever received, and walked through me to get to someone who mattered, like the cameraman from 'Entertainment Tonight!' who was shooting the party. Also in the cast were Ryan O'Neal, who's lost the weight and gotten back his looks, two former Miss Universes, one Miss Thailand, and one Miss Greece, the latter married to Freddie Fields, former partner of the suicided David Begelman, David's widow, Anabel, former wife of his best friend Jay Weston(that was David's M.O.), on whom he had cheated the afternoon of the day he shot himself at the Century Plaza, I think it was. Sitting on the couch with his once wife Alana, who'd married(and divorced) Rod Stewart in the interim, was George Hamilton, looking exactly as he had forty years ago, except with a deeper tan. I asked him what his beauty secrets were, and he said he thought about happy things and didn't pay much attention to food, although a woman with whom I left in the elevator said he forgot to mention many secret trips to Switzerland.
Got the world's best haircut from Dusty Fleming, and color by Nada whose daughter married Christopher Bale, star of 'Batman' before he was-- such things happen in the land of dreams-- and also saw at the party Victoria White, widow of Sir or maybe it was Lord Gordon, recently ex-wife of an arms manufacturer from Texas ot maybe it's Idaho, who is now on the arm of Bob Evans, due to elope with him to Mexico on the 1st of August. She is very beautiful and empty, so is as good as a movie star, and he seems very happy. He has recovered from two strokes and what he described to me as having 'flatlined,' and has written a book called 'The Fat Lady Sang,' which I suggested he call, more recognizably, 'The Fat Lady Sings,' and he said he would put it up for discussion to several focus groups. Ah, L.A, L.A. I also counseled him against opening at a New York theatre reading aloud from the book, and advised he leave it at publishing and Books on Tape, reminding him what the critics had just done to Suzanne Somers, which evisceration was a subject of much Schaadenfreudial merriment at the fest.
In tha apartment of friends, all glass-encased, so on a clear day, etc. I looked at the hills, and wished I had the 2.8 million they were asking(2 bedrooms, only 2, Zut, Alors!) But when I had Gena and her beau to dinner the sun set on the dining area part of the living room, and in spite of very efficient air-conditioning the place turned into a cooker, and we had to wait until the sun went down to eat and it IS daylight savings time. That, and a nasty woman in the pool were enough to make me glad I didn't live there, and I returned to New York with a rested heart, waking up today to the joy of The New York Times.
I have to say that in spite of how much I love the Boyarskys, and understand that Bill is no longer at the Times in LA, I was reminded every morning of the Fred Allen story where he came to California and asked for a newspaper, "but the man must have misunderstood me, and gave me the Los Angeles Times." As you know from the Arnold headlines, they have their priorities, and even on the days there was real news(London, Egypt) the world coming apart didn't seem so, because of the lay-out of the front page, where chicks and ducks and geese better scurry but nothing appears that dire.
The wonder of the Times here, though, making it worth living small and without a pool, is that at your doorstep of a morning is not only all the news that's fit to print-- more than we need really, as they cut down 80,000 trees every Sunday to put out that paper, a secret a staffer(not Mark Felt) told me and said I wasn't to tell anyone, but you know me-- but the growing conviction that the truth will out, and some(not all) will maybe get strangled by their own deception. I was moved to write an Op-Ed letter that in all likelihood might not be printed. So here, just in case, for you:

To the Editor, New York Times

In your very evenhanded piece today on the White House's 'Political Warfare' on Joseph Wilson, you have a typo referring to the presidential plane leaving for Senegal as "Air Force Once." As I began mulling it over, it seemed to me perhaps not so much a typo as a fair appraisal. What dignity and integrity this country had once. What leaders there were once. Even Harrison Ford in the Tom Clancy thriller that took place within that great plane's confines had a nobility and heroism more commensurate with the office than what we have there now. The unraveling pattern of deceit that this administration is based on has made us despised all over the world, and now it begins to show clearly its shameless face at home.

end of the mailed-in outrage.

Oh, may it do some good. Oh, may terrorists be caught and blotted out, and the home-grown ones who work without bombs(at least so far) considering themselves above the law, as they rally to change it to their inflexible ideological benefit, be exposed, May Judith Miller get out of jail and Karl Rove go in. And may everyone live happily ever after. For a while, anyway.

Sunday, July 17, 2005


So I knew I was back in LA when I opened my hotel room door and outside was the LA Times, its headline, with all that is going on, 'GOVERNOR TO GET 8 MILLION FROM FITNESS MAGAZINE.' Yesterday I went into a baby store to pick up something for the Robinson twins and there was a baby massage class going on. Today I walked the early-morning pavement in the sand in Santa Monica and on Muscle Beach there was an aerobics class for two year-olds. All golden-haired as they marched chubby-legged up and down to the music, except for one dark-mopped toddler in a tutu. Oh, it is hard to believe I ever lived here taking all this for granted.
The hotel was Casa Del Mar, formerly the Pritikin Institute, before that, Synanon. Don and I used to go there in the early days of our California struggle, and play 'The Game', a kind of attack-therapy invented by Chuck Diedrich I think it was spelled, who founded Synanon. We went every Wednesday night, having bonded with a terrific couple named Bill and Jeannie Cohen, ex-heroin addicts who were so sharp and funny and straight-talking it gave new dimension to the term "No bullshit." We stayed close until Diedrich sent down a dictum that there was to be no more smoking, since he had given up cigarettes. So Bill and Jeannie split from Synanon, having been able to give up heroin but not smoking, and soon thereafter they split, period. I guess there was a kind of addiction to Synanon, as AA people are addicted to AA, a healthy addiction, obviously, but a habit nonetheless. And since they had bonded in Synanon's tough love environs, their own love wasn't tough enough to make it outside that edgy comfort zone. I lost track of them not long after, as I seem to have lost track of so many people who really mattered to me. I wonder why that happens in life. The last time I went through my address book, ticking off those (still alive, I must add, since so many are gone to their permanent address) with whom I was still in touch, and it amazed me the friends-- and they really were-- who have fallen out of my life. It also amazed/appalled me how many people I'd put in my book who were not friends at all, a trait I seem to have conquered the more intensely the farther away I got from Hollywood.
Not physically, but in my spirit. On its beautiful face this is still a most attractive place to live. Right now I have moved to a friend's apartment looking down and up at the Hollywood hills. The houses are nearly all beautiful, many of them on stilts-- I can't remember what those are called real estate wise, but when Don and I were first househunting we actually looked at some of those and maybe even considered living in them, earthquakes notwithstanding. Madness.
In between and around and above the houses there are patchworks of bright blue, the swimming pool culture that this place is, though most people rarely swim. I got up at six this morning, and did my fifty-minutes crawl and backstroke at Shutters, where I was staying for a couple of days with Mimi smuggled in a black bag, as dogs are not allowed. She lacks Happy's criminal mentality, so I had trouble making her into a stowaway, but eventually she got to the point where she did put her head down before I zipped it closed, although yesterday she snarled and actually snapped at me, making her displeasure known. Sometime during the night I heard her fall off the bed, and after my swim, when I finished packing, I looked under the bed, where I 'd assumed she was sleeping. She was nowhere to be seen. I looked in the closets, and the john, and called her several times before it turned into a cry, as I realized she was actually gone. The doors to the terrace were open, there were spaces in the slats that she could have gotten through, and it was a four story drop to the sidewalk outside. In a cool panic, I called downstairs to the operator and confessed I had smuggled a little white dog into the hotel, and now she was gone. She sent up Security, a young man who cased the room and looked everywhere as I had done, and then went down to check the bushes, looking for what would have been her mangled remains. Nowhere. I went through many mental scenarios: she'd fallen and someone had found her and taken her to the vet and if she recovered would keep her, I would never get another dog, how could I train a new puppy, what would my life be without her, especially in New York, a city that had become almost enjoyable for me because of her proud little assumption, head high, that Central Park was her front yard. Devastated-- there was obviously nothing more to be done, and I would be late for Quaker Meeting, a well for the soul I always dip into when I am in LA, I started to pile up my luggage. And inside the bag that had pissed her off so as I lugged her back and forth from her walks on the beach, was Mimi. Various friends have their theories: she had come to think of that as home; she was only pretending to be miffed with me for imprisoning her in its confines and was actually quite happy there. But the clarity came from my friend Joie, who said she was probably quite simply nervous I would leave without her, as she always knows when I am about to change locale, and so hid in the bag to make sure I took her along. Needless to say we will not be going back to stay at Shutters since I thoroughly blew my cover.
But Meeting was kind and restorative, as it always is, with a member recommending a book called 'After Terror,' and a woman wearing a pin reading 'WAGE PEACE.' Oh, and by the way, Arnold withdrew from the magazine paying him 8 million dollars, cancelling the rest of his contract but keeping the million he got this past year. Conflict of interest, don't you know, since he'd pushed through a bill that was good for vitamins, and vitamin manufacturers advertise in the magazine. Yes, Virginia, there are worse things than actors, even the bad ones: there are those who become politicians.