Saturday, May 14, 2005

Every Woman is an Island, Unless she's a Peninsula

My exotic and gifted friend Nadya(the two adjectives are symbiotic: she lives in Bali, where she creates and manufactures outrageously original and flauntable clothes) blew into town with the Spring winds, and a raft of her designs, flogging them from her hotel suite at the Surrey. Nadya is from Chicago, but she has lived in Bali for a quarter of a century, I think, long enough to have become fairly Balinese in her thinking. That is, she understands the dark side, as all the religious statues in Bali are draped with black and white checks, the Ramayana is danced with that color combo in its costumes, as Bali people believe there cannot be light without the contrasting darkness, and their deep spirituality is underscored with an understanding and acceptance of evil as necessary to get to the good. So she was able to help me to be almost (almost, I am not there yet)peaceful about the mysterious and improbable death of my beloved friend Sandy, who was, according to Howard Chua, one of her bosses at Time Magazine, "a legend," a fearless and selfless journalist who was with Aquino at the time of his assassination, became a force in the People's revolution in the Phillipines, was in Tiennamen Square defying the tanks, in elephant stampedes, went to Burma to interview the Nobel prize winner under house arrest, made it through a multitude of dangerous and brilliant adventures in her lucid and inconspicuous(except for her writing, which was radiant) fashion, only to retire to Bali to write a book and die in a bizarre "accident" in her bathroom. Nadya helped me get over that(though not all the way) by assuring me that Sandy herself, being a fan of Bali and its ironies, would appreciate the manner of her own departure, that is to say, not appreciate it in the savoring sense, but in the discerning one, as a full enactment of the incongruity, the absurdity, the enigma.
Anyway, in pops Nadya, glistening in the oncoming darkness with the subtle threads of Lurex in her black and wine red garb, telling me at Cafe Boulud, which mercifully sides the Surrey with a number of outdoor tables, so Mimi could come, too. We had a light dinner and some wine, as she told me in her designerguru manner that Bali and New York are very much alike. 1]they are both jungles; 2]they are both islands; and 3} everybody on them is too busy to make plans, but if you are in trouble they will come to your aid.
As longtime friends who have read these reports are aware, my favorite place on the planet is Bali. (Tied, or a very close second, is the Hotel Bel-Air, but it is unrealistic to think in terms of long sojourns there.) As friends are also aware, I am in a struggle to try and love New York. I of course love the theater, the best argument for being here besides Central Park on a good day, right across the street, so Mimi thinks it's her front yard. But even the matinee revival I am going to today at City Center is $94.00, so the beginner, which I was once, coming onto the scene today would have a very hard time being an aficionado, a learner, whatever, unless they had a very deep pocket, probably in someone else's pants.
Still, what Nadya said helped. I shall try and view this city with the same love and eagerness to start the day I feel beside the Indian Ocean on Seminyak beach, though it would help if there were a warm pool I could swim in at six in the morning. On Mimi's walk today we again ran into the fierce and combative Trouble, the four pound Maltese of Leona Helmsley, being given an outing by yet another suhvant of that lady. Trouble once again snarled and tried to attack Mimi, demonstrating her ferocity, which one must assume is a part of her DNA, passed onto her by her owner, who is now eighty-four and, according to the doorman who usually walks Trouble, much mellowed, both by time and her experience in jail. I have considered approaching her for an article about how the courts don't like bright women(see Martha Stewart, Leona, me, and Jean Harris, although as my friend Carole Kessie pointed out, the last did shoot Dr. Tarnower dead, Bang Bang) and, in the fantasy version, becoming her friend and swimming daily in her pool, at either end of which, the unforgiving reader will remember, a servant gave her a shrimp. Robert Mondavi has a lap pool beside his bed in Napa, and rolls into it every morning, swimming for a half hour, and he is now well into his nineties, so I do believe that swimming may be the key to extraordinary longevity and bulbs continuing to light in the brain, though having a lot of wine may not hurt.
So it is that I will, with the help of yet another surprisingly perfect day, and Nadya's perspective, toddle off to the matinee with a burgeoning love of this city in my heart, though my spirit will once again be conflicted by what I am going to see, a revival of The Apple Tree. In 1966, as I am horrified to note it was first presented, my God, almost 40 years ago, I was a songwriter, friends with Jules Feiffer whose story 'Passionella' I thought would be perfect for Carol Burnett, another pal on the way up, though she had an open bar at her party in LA(you paid for your drinks) Carol liked the idea, too, and Jules was willing. But then it got bought to be one of three pieces in The Apple Tree, directed by Mike Nichols who was still humble. I got over my disappointment because I was so elated by the talent of Barbara Harris, the lead in the show, who sang like an angel, was funny, and had chubby cheeks, so I identified. After scoring a gigantic success on Broadway, she disappeared. Nobody knows where she is. Maybe she's in Bali.
Walking along the path by the lake this morning I remembered one of the songs I had written to try and entice Carol and convince Jules.
Not bad. And it had a really nice melody, too.
I am hearing songs all the time now in my head. 'The Oldest Established Permanent Floating Crap Game in NY' from 'Guys and Dolls' made its way into my consciousness. And yesterday I heard Mary Martin sing 'Cockeyed Optimist.' I wonder where it is that skies are a bright canary yellow. In Bali they are often lavender, but it's hard to find rhymes for that. .

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