Saturday, June 25, 2005

Summa is a'comin in

Lewdly sing cuckoo.. That was one of the medieval folk songs we would sing at medieval Bryn Mawr. This merciful Spring, which it was, this soft flow of friendly air that actually wafted, a word I don't think of often because it sounds so stilted and unlikely, was, in this case, gorgeously applicable. People from all over the world who clumped in camera-ready groups around the edges of the lake where Mimi walks every morning, praised the weather of New York and told me how lucky I was to live here. I in turn told them how lucky they were to hit a season where Nature performed as if She were working for Bloomberg, making advocates of visitors, and fans of those who weren;t sure about New York(me.) This, too, shall pass, and, even this morning seems to be passing, the heat waiting in the wings like an anxious ingenue who is afraid nobody will honor her debut. Even the New York Times had an op-ed piece on the weather. It has made people more companionable, a solace for what we are going through politically as our country appears to seep away.
Billy Graham is in Flushing Meadows where I was going to go to hear him for purposes of research, trying to understand where all this is coming from, but I saw him for a few minutes on Larry King and decided it's coming from cant, and there's enough of that around without taking a long subway ride. I would rather just hang out on Central Park South where a sidewalk cafe, Sarabeth's, a cousin of an upper West Side tearoom, has opened, and I can take Mimi as long as we sit at a table next to the iron fence and I keep her outside. She of course sneaks in between the curls of metal to be at my feet,but there is only one hostess who makes a fuss. I came there two weeks ago and there was a pleasant looking woman occupying one of the tables I needed to be at, so I asked if she was starting or finishing, and she said 'Finishing' and invited me to sit down. I accepted gratefully, tied Mimi up and introduced myself. "Did you go to LAke Bryn Mawr Camp?" she asked me when she'd heard my name; I said, 'Yes.' and she said "I'm Nancy Rivlin." We hadn't seen each other since we were eleven. Lake Bryn Mawr Camp, Honesdale, Pa., where all the little girls were sent away by parents who could afford it, to beat the heat and not get polio. When I got into Bryn Mawr College,(no relation) my mother said "Why do you want to go there? You already went there." ANyway Nancy Rivlin was going to go with me to hear Billy Graham but we both opted out. Still I see her there often(that used to be the writer Tommy Thompson's favorite word, 'we'll see each other often,' he would say, and never call again.)
Yesterday I had the table first and Nancy formerly Rivlin joined me, and we both joined in conversation with a fine-looking white-haired, white goateed gentleman who was having an afternoon ice cream, as Europeans do, appropriate since he was Greek. A professor of philosophy at an Athens university, here to lecture at Hunter. He began talking of when he was in D.C. studying in the 60s, and how he spent half his time protesting, and wondered why no one is protesting now, when our policies have become so execrable. Howard Dean was on the Daily Show the other night being quite sane, and said, very calmly, "They've taken our country away from us and we've got to get it back." The woman at the next table, a pretty blonde in her forties who'd just found a fine old picture of the Palm Court in a closet at the Plaza and bought it for $8.oo, opined that he was bi-polar, often found in brilliant people. She was a nurse, a cancer survivor, who said she'd lost 186 pounds from the cancer when her husband decided he didn'[t want to be around someone with cancer. Now she has met a sweet, beefy man who sat opposite her at the table-- they were in to scavenge the Plaza for one of his hotels-- and admitted they were both Republicans. I asked why, and she said '9-11.' I will give this to George Bush: he has succeeded in confusing a lot of otherwise lovely people. I suppose I should say 'folks.' He spoke of the folks in Iran a few nights ago, so I guess we will have to acknowledge that people from Baltimore are surely folks.
But what was nice was that the sidewalk experience makes it seem almost Parisian, which of course Paris wasn't, several lifetimes having passed since Les Deux Magots. Parisians don't talk to each other even when they've been properly introduced, and Hemingway was nowhere to be found.
Tommy Thompson, who was a wonderful writer albeit hyperbolic, used to talk on the phone often to Shana Alexander, who just left us. Bennett Cerf said of her, in a shocked tone "Shana takes sex like a man." I admired her at the time Bennett said that, since I understood what he meant, that she didn't get involved, just ate and ran. As admirable as I found it, as an over-sentimental woman, at no time in my life did I ever really want to be like that, as I do think the longing and the yearning and the attachment is what makes us women, unbecoming as it may seem to those we long and yearn for and are attached to unless they feel the same way, which men seldom do, unless they're like my husband, macho enough to get away with it, covering it up with humor. But then they die, so what can you do? And so did Shana Alexander. So no matter how craftily and cagily you waft(there it is again) through life, it ends. And so did the miracle weather, It's really hot now.
But the cool winds were there when I needed them. I finished my play yesterday, nourished by the atmosphere, and too much grub. I remember when Robert and Madeleine were little and they went to the pony ride on Beverly Boulevard, and rode every Sunday on Bobby and Cindy. Then one day Bobby and Cindy weren't there anymore, in their place the Beverly Center. But by then our children were getting too big for pony rides. And Don said "Well, it was there when we needed it. And so was Spring.

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